Hemiparasitic plant impacts animal and plant communities across four trophic levels

Hartley, Susan E. and Green, Jonathan P. and Massey, Fergus P. and Press, Malcolm C. P. and Stewart, Alan J. A. and John, Elizabeth (Libby) A. (2015) Hemiparasitic plant impacts animal and plant communities across four trophic levels. Ecology, 96 (9). pp. 2408-2416. ISSN 0012-9658

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Hemiparasitic plant impacts animal and plant communities across four trophic levels
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Abstract

1.Understanding the impact of species on community structure is a fundamental question in ecology. There is a growing body of evidence that suggests that both sub-dominant species and parasites can have a disproportionately large impact.

2.Here we report the impacts of an organism that is both subdominant and parasitic, the hemiparasite Rhinanthus minor. Whilst the impact of parasitic angiosperms on their hosts and, to a lesser degree, co-existing plant species, have been well characterized, much less is known about their impacts on higher trophic levels.

3.We experimentally manipulated field densities of the hemiparasite Rhinanthus minor in a species rich grassland, comparing the plant and invertebrate communities in plots where it was removed, at natural densities or at enhanced densities.

4.Plots with natural and enhanced densities of R. minor had lower plant biomass than plots without the hemiparasite, but enhanced densities almost doubled the abundance of invertebrates within the plots across all trophic levels, with effects evident in herbivores, predators and detritivores.

5.The hemiparasite R. minor, despite being a sub-dominant and transient component within plant communities that it inhabits, has profound effects on four different trophic levels. These effects persist beyond the life of the hemiparasite,
emphasizing its role as a keystone species in grassland communities

Keywords:hemiparasite, Rhinanthus, grassland, Keystone species, herbivore, Indirect interaction, abundance, Diversity, species richness, NotOAChecked
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C180 Ecology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
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ID Code:18454
Deposited On:21 Aug 2015 09:48

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