Defence against vertebrate herbivores trades off into architectural and low nutrient strategies amongst savanna Fabaceae species

K.W. Tomlinson, F. van Langevelde, D. Ward, H.H.T. Prins, S. de Bie, B. Vosman, E.V.S.B. Sampaio, F.J. Sterck

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Herbivory contributes substantially to plant functional diversity and in ways that move far beyond direct defence trait patterns, as effective growth strategies under herbivory require modification of multiple functional traits that are indirectly related to defence. In order to understand how herbivory has shaped plant functional diversity, we need to consider the physiology and architecture of the herbivores and how this constrains effective defence strategies. Here we consider herbivory by mammals in savanna communities that range from semi-arid to humid conditions. We posited that the saplings of savanna trees can be grouped into two contrasting defence strategies against mammals, namely architectural defence versus low nutrient defence. We provide a mechanistic explanation for these different strategies based on the fact that plants are under competing selection pressures to limit herbivore damage and outcompete neighbouring plants. Plant competitiveness depends on growth rate, itself a function of leaf mass fraction (LMF) and leaf nitrogen per unit mass (Nm). Architectural defence against vertebrates (which includes spinescence) limits herbivore access to plant leaf materials, and partly depends on leaf-size reduction, thereby compromising LMF. Low nutrient defence requires that leaf material is of insufficient nutrient value to support vertebrate metabolic requirements, which depends on low Nm. Thus there is an enforced tradeoff between LMF and Nm, leading to distinct trait suites for each defence strategy. We demonstrate this tradeoff by showing that numerous traits can be distinguished between 28 spinescent (architectural defenders) and non-spinescent (low nutrient defenders) of Fabaceae tree species from savannas, where mammalian herbivory is an important constraint on plant growth. Distributions of the strategies along an LMF-Nm tradeoff further provides a predictive and parsimonious explanation for the uneven distribution of spinescent and non-spinescent species across water and nutrient gradients.
Original languageEnglish
Article number125
Pages (from-to)126-136
JournalOikos
Volume125
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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savanna
trade-off
Fabaceae
savannas
herbivore
vertebrate
herbivores
vertebrates
nutrient
nutrients
herbivory
leaves
functional diversity
mammals
mammal
defence
saplings
sapling
competitiveness
physiology

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title = "Defence against vertebrate herbivores trades off into architectural and low nutrient strategies amongst savanna Fabaceae species",
abstract = "Herbivory contributes substantially to plant functional diversity and in ways that move far beyond direct defence trait patterns, as effective growth strategies under herbivory require modification of multiple functional traits that are indirectly related to defence. In order to understand how herbivory has shaped plant functional diversity, we need to consider the physiology and architecture of the herbivores and how this constrains effective defence strategies. Here we consider herbivory by mammals in savanna communities that range from semi-arid to humid conditions. We posited that the saplings of savanna trees can be grouped into two contrasting defence strategies against mammals, namely architectural defence versus low nutrient defence. We provide a mechanistic explanation for these different strategies based on the fact that plants are under competing selection pressures to limit herbivore damage and outcompete neighbouring plants. Plant competitiveness depends on growth rate, itself a function of leaf mass fraction (LMF) and leaf nitrogen per unit mass (Nm). Architectural defence against vertebrates (which includes spinescence) limits herbivore access to plant leaf materials, and partly depends on leaf-size reduction, thereby compromising LMF. Low nutrient defence requires that leaf material is of insufficient nutrient value to support vertebrate metabolic requirements, which depends on low Nm. Thus there is an enforced tradeoff between LMF and Nm, leading to distinct trait suites for each defence strategy. We demonstrate this tradeoff by showing that numerous traits can be distinguished between 28 spinescent (architectural defenders) and non-spinescent (low nutrient defenders) of Fabaceae tree species from savannas, where mammalian herbivory is an important constraint on plant growth. Distributions of the strategies along an LMF-Nm tradeoff further provides a predictive and parsimonious explanation for the uneven distribution of spinescent and non-spinescent species across water and nutrient gradients.",
author = "K.W. Tomlinson and {van Langevelde}, F. and D. Ward and H.H.T. Prins and {de Bie}, S. and B. Vosman and E.V.S.B. Sampaio and F.J. Sterck",
year = "2016",
doi = "10.1111/oik.02325",
language = "English",
volume = "125",
pages = "126--136",
journal = "Oikos",
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Defence against vertebrate herbivores trades off into architectural and low nutrient strategies amongst savanna Fabaceae species. / Tomlinson, K.W.; van Langevelde, F.; Ward, D.; Prins, H.H.T.; de Bie, S.; Vosman, B.; Sampaio, E.V.S.B.; Sterck, F.J.

In: Oikos, Vol. 125, No. 1, 125, 2016, p. 126-136.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

TY - JOUR

T1 - Defence against vertebrate herbivores trades off into architectural and low nutrient strategies amongst savanna Fabaceae species

AU - Tomlinson, K.W.

AU - van Langevelde, F.

AU - Ward, D.

AU - Prins, H.H.T.

AU - de Bie, S.

AU - Vosman, B.

AU - Sampaio, E.V.S.B.

AU - Sterck, F.J.

PY - 2016

Y1 - 2016

N2 - Herbivory contributes substantially to plant functional diversity and in ways that move far beyond direct defence trait patterns, as effective growth strategies under herbivory require modification of multiple functional traits that are indirectly related to defence. In order to understand how herbivory has shaped plant functional diversity, we need to consider the physiology and architecture of the herbivores and how this constrains effective defence strategies. Here we consider herbivory by mammals in savanna communities that range from semi-arid to humid conditions. We posited that the saplings of savanna trees can be grouped into two contrasting defence strategies against mammals, namely architectural defence versus low nutrient defence. We provide a mechanistic explanation for these different strategies based on the fact that plants are under competing selection pressures to limit herbivore damage and outcompete neighbouring plants. Plant competitiveness depends on growth rate, itself a function of leaf mass fraction (LMF) and leaf nitrogen per unit mass (Nm). Architectural defence against vertebrates (which includes spinescence) limits herbivore access to plant leaf materials, and partly depends on leaf-size reduction, thereby compromising LMF. Low nutrient defence requires that leaf material is of insufficient nutrient value to support vertebrate metabolic requirements, which depends on low Nm. Thus there is an enforced tradeoff between LMF and Nm, leading to distinct trait suites for each defence strategy. We demonstrate this tradeoff by showing that numerous traits can be distinguished between 28 spinescent (architectural defenders) and non-spinescent (low nutrient defenders) of Fabaceae tree species from savannas, where mammalian herbivory is an important constraint on plant growth. Distributions of the strategies along an LMF-Nm tradeoff further provides a predictive and parsimonious explanation for the uneven distribution of spinescent and non-spinescent species across water and nutrient gradients.

AB - Herbivory contributes substantially to plant functional diversity and in ways that move far beyond direct defence trait patterns, as effective growth strategies under herbivory require modification of multiple functional traits that are indirectly related to defence. In order to understand how herbivory has shaped plant functional diversity, we need to consider the physiology and architecture of the herbivores and how this constrains effective defence strategies. Here we consider herbivory by mammals in savanna communities that range from semi-arid to humid conditions. We posited that the saplings of savanna trees can be grouped into two contrasting defence strategies against mammals, namely architectural defence versus low nutrient defence. We provide a mechanistic explanation for these different strategies based on the fact that plants are under competing selection pressures to limit herbivore damage and outcompete neighbouring plants. Plant competitiveness depends on growth rate, itself a function of leaf mass fraction (LMF) and leaf nitrogen per unit mass (Nm). Architectural defence against vertebrates (which includes spinescence) limits herbivore access to plant leaf materials, and partly depends on leaf-size reduction, thereby compromising LMF. Low nutrient defence requires that leaf material is of insufficient nutrient value to support vertebrate metabolic requirements, which depends on low Nm. Thus there is an enforced tradeoff between LMF and Nm, leading to distinct trait suites for each defence strategy. We demonstrate this tradeoff by showing that numerous traits can be distinguished between 28 spinescent (architectural defenders) and non-spinescent (low nutrient defenders) of Fabaceae tree species from savannas, where mammalian herbivory is an important constraint on plant growth. Distributions of the strategies along an LMF-Nm tradeoff further provides a predictive and parsimonious explanation for the uneven distribution of spinescent and non-spinescent species across water and nutrient gradients.

U2 - 10.1111/oik.02325

DO - 10.1111/oik.02325

M3 - Article

VL - 125

SP - 126

EP - 136

JO - Oikos

JF - Oikos

SN - 0030-1299

IS - 1

M1 - 125

ER -