Herbivorous fungi and insects affect grass diversity based on the characteristics of grass species and the composition of nearby trees


The mechanisms for maintaining biodiversity have been a hot topic in ecology for decades. Herbivorous fungi and insects contribute to plant diversity in grasslands, which has been frequently reported. However, evidence of their driving role on the diversity of forest grasses is not enough.

In a study published in Journal of Ecology, WANG Xugao and Dr. JIA Shihong from the Institute of Applied Ecology (IAE) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) conducted a field manipulation experiment in a temperate forest from northeast China and examined the effects of herbivorous fungi and insects on grass diversity using fungicides and insecticides.

The researchers found that the fungicides reduced weed diversity by 5% and that the negative effect was lower in the plots studied where there were a greater number of neighboring tree species. Although the insecticide was also able to reduce grass diversity, but only in plots dominated by deciduous trees.

Additionally, fungicides and insecticides affected grass diversity based on the defensive characteristics of grass species (e.g., leaf thickness), and only grasses with thinner leaves or non-clonal traits were affected. greatly reduced their species diversity when plants were sprayed with fungicides and insecticide.

The study indicates that herbivorous fungi and insects play a significant role in maintaining the diversity of understory grass species in the temperate forest.

This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the CAS Strategic Priority Research Program.

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