Variation in Plant Response to Herbivory Underscored by Functional Traits.

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The effects of herbivory can shape plant communities and evolution. However, the many forms of herbivory costs and the wide variation in herbivory pressure, including across latitudinal gradients, can make predicting the effects of herbivory on different plant species difficult. Functional trait approaches may aid in contextualizing and standardizing the assessment of herbivory impacts. Here we assessed the response of 26 old-field plant species to simulated defoliation in a greenhouse setting by measuring whole plant and leaf level traits in control and treated individuals. Simulated defoliation had no significant effects on any plant traits measured. However, the baseline leaf level traits of healthy plants consistently predicted the log response ratio for these species whole plant response to defoliation. The latitudinal mid-point of species' distributions was also significantly correlated with aboveground biomass and total leaf area responses, with plants with a more northern distribution being more negatively impacted by treatment. These results indicate that even in the absence of significant overall impacts, functional traits may aid in predicting variability in plant responses to defoliation and in identifying the underlying limitations driving those responses.





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Reese, Aspen T, Gregory M Ames and Justin P Wright (2016). Variation in Plant Response to Herbivory Underscored by Functional Traits. PLoS One, 11(12). p. e0166714. 10.1371/journal.pone.0166714 Retrieved from

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Justin Prouty Wright

Professor of Biology

My research focuses on understanding the causes and consequences of patterns of biological diversity across the planet. I am particularly interested in two broad questions: 1)How does the modification of the environment by organisms affect community structure and ecosystem function? and 2) what aspects of biodiversity matter most in the regulation of ecosystem function? While much of my research has focused on wetland plant communities, I am willing to study any organism and work in any ecosystem to answer the questions that interest me. I have worked in systems ranging from tropical streams to desert shrublands. My research program combines observational and experimental approaches with modeling to develop and test hypotheses and build towards synthetic ecological theory.

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