The role of herbivory in mediating ecosystem functions in species-rich forests

Project: Research

Project participants


Herbivores have been suggested as important drivers of tree diversity in phytodiverse forests. Our herbivory census with BEF China revealed a positive herbivory-plant diversity relationship in the CSPs. This indicates that resource-concentration effects (reduced specialist herbivore damage as plant diversity increases) do not determine overall herbivory in our phytodiverse study system. Dominant herbivores in (sub)tropical forests are often expected to be highly specialized, whereas our survey suggests a much higher impact of polyphagous taxa. To test this, we will study host specificity of dominant insect herbivores in both the main experiment and the CSPs. Considering the intensive herbivory in the BEF China sites the ratio of polyphagous herbivores will help understand how the enormous plant diversity is maintained in these forests. Herbivory assessments will further allow us to relate herbivory effects on growth and survival of individual tree species to tree diversity. Furthermore, the sampling methods provide insight into the diversity of further macrofauna. To understand relationships between tree and macrofaunal diversity we will study important predatory and saproxylic taxa playing key roles in predation (spiders, ground beetles) and deadwood decomposition (saproxylic beetles). Predators are of special conservation concern due to the occurrence of two key state-protected Carabus species. Habitat suitability models for these species will give insight into the possible role of tree diversity for the conservation of endangered species.