Plant traits shape soil legacy effects on individual plant-insect interactions



Plant-mediated soil legacy effects can be important determinants of the performance of plants and their aboveground insect herbivores, but so far, soil legacy effects on plant-insect interactions have been tested for only a limited number of host plant species and soils. Here, we tested the performance of a polyphagous aboveground herbivore, caterpillars of the cabbage moth, Mamestra brassicae on twelve host plant species that were grown on a set of soils conditioned by each of these twelve species. We tested how growth rate (fast- or slow-growing) and functional type (grass or forb) of the plant species that conditioned the soil and of the responding host plant species growing in those soils affect the response of insect herbivores to conditioned soils. Our results show that plants and insect herbivores had lower biomass in soils that were conditioned by fast-growing forbs than in soils conditioned by slow-growing forbs. In soils conditioned by grasses, growth rate of the conditioning plant had the opposite effect, i.e., plants and herbivores had higher biomass in soils conditioned by fast-growing grasses, than in soils conditioned by slow-growing grasses. We show that the response of aboveground insects to soil legacy effects is strongly positively correlated with the response of the host plant species, indicating that plant vigour may explain these relationships. We provide evidence that soil communities can play an important role in shaping plant-insect interactions aboveground. Our results further emphasize the important and interactive role of the conditioning and the response plant in mediating soil-plant-insect interactions.
Date made available2019

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