Biodiversity enhances the multitrophic control of arthropod herbivory

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Abstract

Arthropod herbivores cause substantial economic costs that drive an increasing need to develop environmentally sustainable approaches to herbivore control. Increasing plant diversity is expected to limit herbivory by altering plant-herbivore and predator-herbivore interactions, but the simultaneous influence of these interactions on herbivore impacts remains unexplored. We compiled 487 arthropod food webs in two long-running grassland biodiversity experiments in Europe and North America to investigate whether and how increasing plant diversity can reduce the impacts of herbivores on plants. We show that plants lose just under half as much energy to arthropod herbivores when in high-diversity mixtures versus monocultures and reveal that plant diversity decreases effects of herbivores on plants by simultaneously benefiting predators and reducing average herbivore food quality. These findings demonstrate that conserving plant diversity is crucial for maintaining interactions in food webs that provide natural control of herbivore pests.

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Barnes, A. D., Scherber, C., Brose, U., Borer, E. T., Ebeling, A., Gauzens, B., … Eisenhauer, N. (2020). Biodiversity enhances the multitrophic control of arthropod herbivory. Science Advances, 6(45). https://doi.org/10.1126/SCIADV.ABB6603

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