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1 August 2008 Diversity Cascades in Alfalfa Fields: From Plant Quality to Agroecosystem Diversity
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Abstract

To examine top-down and bottom-up influences on managed terrestrial communities, we manipulated plant resources and arthropod abundance in alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) fields. We modified arthropod communities using three nonfactorial manipulations: pitfall traps to remove selected arthropods, wooden crates to create habitat heterogeneity, and an arthropod removal treatment using a reversible leaf blower. These manipulations were crossed with fertilizer additions, which were applied to half of the plots. We found strong effects of fertilizer on plant quality and biomass, and these effects cascaded up to increase herbivore abundance and diversity. The predator community also exhibited a consistent positive effect on the maintenance of herbivore species richness and abundance. These top-down changes in arthropods did not cascade down to affect plant biomass; however, plant quality (saponin content) increased with higher herbivore densities. These results corroborate previous studies in alfalfa that show complex indirect effects, such as trophic cascades, can operate in agricultural systems, but the specifics of the interactions depend on the assemblages of arthropods involved.

Clark V. Pearson, Tara J. Massad, and Lee A. Dyer "Diversity Cascades in Alfalfa Fields: From Plant Quality to Agroecosystem Diversity," Environmental Entomology 37(4), (1 August 2008). https://doi.org/10.1603/0046-225X(2008)37[947:DCIAFF]2.0.CO;2
Received: 4 January 2008; Accepted: 22 April 2008; Published: 1 August 2008
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