Supplementary material from "Tree species richness attenuates the positive relationship between mutualistic ant–hemipteran interactions and leaf chewer herbivory"

Published on 2017-08-11T08:59:45Z (GMT) by
Interactions across trophic levels influence plant diversity effects on ecosystem functions, but the complexity of these interactions remains poorly explored. For example, the interplay between different interactions (e.g. mutualism, predation) might be an important moderator of biodiversity-ecosystem function relationships. We tested for relationships between trophobioses (facultative ant–hemipteran mutualism) and leaf chewer herbivory in a subtropical forest biodiversity experiment. We analysed trophobiosis and herbivory data of more than 10 000 trees along a tree species richness gradient. Against expectations, chewing damage was higher on trees with trophobioses. However, the net positive relationship between trophobioses and overall herbivory depended on tree species richness, being most pronounced at low richness. Our results point to indirect, positive effects of ant-tended sap suckers on leaf chewers, potentially by altering plant defences. Direct antagonistic relationships of trophobiotic ants and leaf-chewing herbivores—frequently reported to drive community-wide effects of trophobioses in other ecosystems—seemed less relevant. However, antagonistic interactions likely contributed to the attenuating effect of tree species richness, because trophobiotic ant and herbivore communities changed from monocultures to species-rich mixtures. Our findings, therefore, suggest that biodiversity loss might lead to complex changes in higher trophic level effects on ecosystem functions, mediated by both trophic and non-trophic interactions.

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Schuldt, Andreas; Fornoff, Felix; Bruelheide, Helge; Klein, Alexandra-Maria; Staab, Michael (2017): Supplementary material from "Tree species richness attenuates the positive relationship between mutualistic ant–hemipteran interactions and leaf chewer herbivory". The Royal Society.