In terrestrial food webs, the study of multitrophic interactions traditionally has focused on organisms that share a common domain, mainly above ground. In the last two decades, it has become clear that to further understand multitrophic interactions, the barrier between the belowground and aboveground domains has to be crossed. Belowground organisms that are intimately associated with the roots of terrestrial plants can influence the levels of primary and secondary chemistry and biomass of aboveground plant parts. These changes, in turn, influence the growth, development, and survival of aboveground insect herbivores. The discovery that soil organisms, which are usually out of sight and out of mind, can affect plant-herbivore interactions aboveground raised the question if and how higher trophic level organisms, such as carnivores, could be influenced. At present, the study of above-belowground interactions is evolving from interactions between organisms directly associated with the plant roots and shoots (e.g., root feeders - plant - foliar herbivores) to interactions involving members of higher trophic levels (e.g., parasitoids), as well as non-herbivorous organisms (e.g., decomposers, symbiotic plant mutualists, and pollinators). This multitrophic approach linking above- and belowground food webs aims at addressing interactions between plants, herbivores, and carnivores in a more realistic community setting. The ultimate goal is to understand the ecology and evolution of species in communities and, ultimately how community interactions contribute to the functioning of terrestrial ecosystems. Here, we summarize studies on the effects of root feeders on aboveground insect herbivores and parasitoids and discuss if there are common trends.We discuss the mechanisms that have been reported to mediate these effects, from changes in concentrations of plant nutritional quality and secondary chemistry to defense signaling. Finally, we discuss how the traditional framework of fixed paired combinations of root- and shoot-related organisms feeding on a common plant can be transformed into a more dynamic and realistic framework that incorporates community variation in species, densities, space and time, in order to gain further insight in this exciting and rapidly developing field.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Chemical Ecology
Journal publication date2012

ID: 110371