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Subramanian, Swapna Krithika [1], Turcotte, Martin [2].

Small Bugs, Big Appetites: Duckweed Herbivory in the Lab and the Field.

The role of herbivores in driving the structure of freshwater macrophyte communities remains poorly understood in comparison with terrestrial ecosystems. For instance, although duckweed (subfamily Lemnoideae) are globally distributed, can be ecologically dominant, and are of growing economic importance, their interactions with herbivores remain understudied. It remains unknown if herbivores could strongly impact duckweed’s rapid population growth and how they could influence species composition of macrophyte communities. We here test whether the water-lily aphid (Rhopalosiphum nymphaeae) exhibits a preference between species of duckweed and how duckweed and aphids reciprocally affect each other’s performance. Our two-way choice experiments reveal that aphids display preference for Spirodela polyrhiza > Landoltia punctata = Lemna minor >> Wolffia brasiliensis. By evaluating the growth of aphid populations on each duckweed species we found that preference may be adaptive in certain ecological conditions when high growth rate is advantageous. Quantifying the population growth rate of duckweed in the presence and absence of aphids revealed differential tolerance of herbivory across duckweed species. These results suggest that a single herbivore could have a significant impact on duckweed populations and species composition in nature.We pursued this possibility with a manipulative field experiment. Using exclosures in natural ponds, we manipulated the presence of herbivores. We found that herbivory impacts species composition of duckweed communities in a complex manner. Species are differently affected in ambient herbivory and herbivore addition treatments, and there is considerable variation in herbivore effect between sites due to difference in local herbivore communities. We here highlight the importance of quantifying the plant-herbivore interactions in aquatic ecosystems in the lab and the field.

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1 - University of Connecticut, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
2 - University of Pittsburgh, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Aquatic plants.

Presentation Type: Oral Paper
Session: ECO8, Ecology: Interactions
Location: /
Date: Friday, July 23rd, 2021
Time: 11:30 AM(EDT)
Number: ECO8007
Abstract ID:575
Candidate for Awards:Ecological Section Best Graduate Student Paper

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