Plant composition changes in a small-scale community have a large effect on the performance of an economically important grassland pest
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Background The grasshopper Oedaleus asiaticus Bey-Bienko (Acrididae: Oedipodinae) is a dominant and economically important pest that is widely distributed across the Mongolian plateau. This herbivore pest causes major damage to the grassland of the Inner Mongolian steppe in China. The population dynamics of herbivore pests is affected by grassland management practices (e.g., mowing and heavy livestock grazing) that alter plant community structures and stoichiometric characteristics. For example, O. asiaticus outbreak is closely associated with plant preference changes caused by nitrogen loss from heavy livestock grazing. However, the manner by which small-scale variation in vegetation affects grasshopper performance and promotes outbreak is poorly characterized. To address this question, we investigated the relationship between small-scale (1 m2) vegetation variability and measures of O. asiaticus performance associated with plant stoichiometric characteristics. Results We found that food preferences of O. asiaticus varied significantly, but maintained a specific dietary structure for different plant compositions. Notably, small-scale changes in plant community composition significantly affected grasshopper food preference and body size. Partial least-square modeling indicated that plant proportion and biomass affected grasshopper body size and density. We found that this effect differed between sexes. Specifically, female body mass positively correlated with the proportion of Stipa krylovii grass, whereas male mass positively correlated with the proportion of Artemisia frigida grass. Further analyses indicated that grasshopper performance is closely associated with plant stoichiometric traits that might be responsible for the pest’s plague. Conclusions This study provides valuable information for managing grasshoppers using rational grassland management practices.
Qin , X , Wu , H , Huang , X , Lock , T R , Kallenbach , R L , Ma , J , Ali , M P , Tu , X , Cao , G , Wang , G , Nong , X , McNeill , M R & Zhang , Z 2019 , ' Plant composition changes in a small-scale community have a large effect on the performance of an economically important grassland pest ' , BMC Ecology , vol. 19 , 32 . https://doi.org/10.1186/s12898-019-0248-6
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DescriptionThis research was supported by the earmarked fund for China Agriculture Research System (CARS-34-07B), the Innovation Project of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, and the China Scholarship Council-University of St Andrews Joint Scholarship. The earmarked fund for China Agriculture Research System (CARS-34-07B) and the Innovation Project of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences supported the design, sample collection, analysis, and interpretation of data as well as writing the manuscript. Xinghu Qin is funded by the China Scholarship Council and University of St Andrews Joint Scholarship.
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