Densities of Orthoptera typically vary greatly over space and time. The most important salt marsh orthopteran on the East Coast of the US is Orchelimum fidicinium, an omnivore that feeds on cordgrass (Spartina alterniflora) and arthropods. We examined spatial (34 sites) and temporal (5 sites, 17 years) variation in O. fidicinium density in coastal Georgia. Sites with considerable adjacent upland habitat had higher densities of O. fidicinium than sites with little adjacent upland. Grasshoppers fed S. alterniflora from both types of sites did not differ in growth rates, ruling out food quality as an explanation. We speculate instead that O. fidicinium require terrestrial habitat for reproduction or escape from predators during extreme high tides. At five sites where O. fidicinium was common, densities varied greatly among years. Regression models indicated that current year plant biomass (three sites) or previous year plant biomass (one site) was the best predictor of O. fidicinium density. Relationships between O. fidicinium and current year plant biomass were typically negative (more grasshoppers in years with lower plant biomass). A possible explanation for this pattern is that plant nutrients may be diluted in years with high plant biomass. We found little evidence that density of animal prey (Prokelisia spp.) or abiotic factors affected O. fidicinium densities. Our study illustrates the value of examining population densities across multiple sites and years, because results from any one site or year would likely have mischaracterized the spatial and temporal distribution of this common salt marsh consumer.
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This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Georgia Coastal Ecosystems Long-Term Ecological Research program under grant numbers OCE-9982133, OCE-0620959, OCE-1237140, and OCE-1832178. We thank everyone who helped collect grasshopper density data, and especially J. Shalack for assistance in the field. This is contribution number 1094 from the University of Georgia Marine Institute.
Conflict of Interest
The authors declare no competing interests.
Communicated by Mark S. Peterson
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Adams, T., Vu, H.D. & Pennings, S.C. Variation in Densities of the Salt Marsh Katydid Orchelimum fidicinium over Space and Time. Estuaries and Coasts 45, 260–271 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12237-021-00953-y