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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SEMIARID RANGELAND ECOSYSTEMS: THE CONSERVATION-PRODUCTION INTERFACE Title: Plant Interactions With Herbivores

Authors
item Blumenthal, Dana
item Augustine, David

Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Life Sciences, 20 Volume Set
Publication Type: Review Article
Publication Acceptance Date: January 22, 2009
Publication Date: September 30, 2009
Citation: Blumenthal, D.M., Augustine, D.J. 2009. Plant Interactions With Herbivores. Encyclopedia of Life Sciences doi10.1002?9780470015902.a0003203.pub2.

Interpretive Summary: The objective of this review is to examine the ways in which plants and herbivores interact, and the factors that determine the type and magnitude of herbivore effects on plant communities and ecosystems. Although herbivores consume most plants to some degree, many plants are also relatively well defended, and herbivore populations are often limited by predators. The net result of these processes is that the extent of herbivory, and the strength of its effects on plant populations and ecosystem processes, are highly variable. Herbivores strongly influence plants in aquatic environments, productive environments, and environments with nutritious, poorly-defended plants or few predators. Although research on herbivory has focused primarily on natural systems, few of these systems are free of human influence. Humans dramatically change plant-herbivore relationships by removing predators, increasing plant resource availability, and moving both plants and herbivores around the globe.

Technical Abstract: Plants are eaten by a tremendous array of herbivores, including almost half of known insect species. Although herbivores consume most plants to some degree, many plants are also relatively well defended, and herbivore populations are often limited by predators. The net result of these processes is that the extent of herbivory, and the strength of its effects on plant populations and ecosystem processes, are highly variable. Herbivores strongly influence plants in aquatic environments, productive environments, and environments with nutritious, poorly-defended plants or few predators. Effects of herbivores can also be accentuated through positive feedbacks between herbivory and soil resources, in which herbivore-mediated changes in plant community composition accelerate or decelerate nutrient cycling. Although research on herbivory has focused primarily on natural systems, few of these systems are free of human influence. Humans dramatically change plant-herbivore relationships by removing predators, increasing plant resource availability, and moving both plants and herbivores around the globe.

Last Modified: 12/21/2014
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