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How abiotic drivers and trait diversity shape herbivory and other biotic processes with consequences for ecosystem functions across mountain ecosystems

Arthropod herbivores and host plant assemblages form a complex system with a variety of interdependencies. Herbivores influence plant traits diversity and thus modulate important ecosystem functions such as nutrient cycles, biomass production, pollination, and water fluxes. In turn, arthropod communities are affected by plant traits. In subproject B4, we study the relationships between plants and arthropod assemblages shaping biomass production by investigating leaf area loss (herbivory) in tree canopies. In phase 1 of RESPECT, located in a tropical mountain rainforest, first Response-Effect-Framework analyses point to a complex interplay between abiotic drivers, plant traits, arthropod communities and biotic processes for the target ecosystem function biomass production.
In phase 2, we will extend our research area by a tropical mountain dry forest. Here, we will, besides the already in phase 1 used leaf traits, herbivore community and abiotic covariates examination approaches to understand the impact and importance of traits and biotic interactions, conduct metabarcoding on the extensive herbivore samples to get insights into phylogenetic relations. This will allow us to understand how abiotic drivers, traits and phylodiversity modulate herbivory across climate and land-use gradients and to project the effects of climate and land-use change on biotic processes and the ecosystem functions.

PIs: Roland Brandl and Nina Farwig

Team: Annemarie Wurz und Jana Schön

Cooperation partner: David Donoso (Escuela Politécnica Nacional) and Carlos Ivan Espinosa (Universidad Tecnica Particular de Loja)

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Project funding: DFG