The Effects of Climate Change on Herbivory Patterns in a Sub-alpine Meadow
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Levels and patterns of herbivory were measured in a sub-alpine meadow that is being heated to simulate the conditions of global warming. In each of the 5 control and heated plots, herbivory was measured for the forb species Helianthella quinquenervus and Erigeron speciosus by quantifying average leaf area eaten. Herbivory levels on the shrub Artemisia tridentata were examined through a census of aphid infestation levels. No significant treatment effect was found for any of the three species. Mean levels of herbivory, in terms of leaf area lost, did not exceed 20/0 for Erigeron speciosus and 40/0 for Helianthella quinquenervus. Correlations existed between the forb species' herbivory levels and soil organic matter, N-mineralization rates and total plant species richness. The study provides an initial characterization of herbivory patterns in the warming meadow and indicates that the low herbivory levels observed in Helianthella quinquenervus and Erigeron speciosus would not be an important leak to the overall carbon budget of the warming meadow ecosystem.