Within- and trans-generational effects of herbivores and detritivores on plant performance and reproduction

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Summary1. Mutualistic and antagonistic above-ground and below-ground species have the potential to be involved in strong interactions that can either weaken or strengthen their individual impacts on plants. Their impacts can also have delayed effects on a plant's progeny by altering offspring traits and survival. Few studies have explored the effect of herbivore and detritivore interactions with parent plants on offspring vital life-cycle processes, such as seedling emergence rate, seedling establishment and offspring survival.2. In the field, I experimentally studied the combined effects of floral herbivores (FH), root herbivores (RH) and detritivores on plant growth and reproduction of Moricandia moricandioides (Brassicaceae). In particular, I analysed the trans-generational effects of herbivores and detritivores on seed and juvenile production as well as on vital life-cycle processes (i.e. seedling emergence rates, survival).3. Floral herbivores strongly reduced the number of flowers, fruits, seeds and juveniles. Detritivores had an impact on plant success by increasing seed quality (% N and N : C ratio), although the effect was altered by the presence of floral and RH.4. I found maternal effects (trans-generational effects) of FH, RH and detritivores. Floral herbivores reduced seedling emergence and establishment. Floral and RH in combination reduced seedling emergence timing, but the effect was counteracted by detritivores. Detritivores also reduced the negative effect of FH on offspring mortality rate.5. This study shows that the impact of above-ground and below-ground organisms on M. moricandioides plants go beyond seed production and were evident in the probability of establishment and survival of the following generation. Trans-generational effects were induced by all three groups of interacting organisms and the net consequences for plant offspring depended on the organisms interacting with the plant.This paper presents the first attempt to date to experimentally predict the joint effects of different herbivores and a detritivore on plant performance and reproduction and of the maternal biotic effects on seeds, juveniles and several transitional stages of the life cycle of the plants.

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