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The influence of below ground herbivory and plant competition on growth and biomass allocation of purple loosestrife

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Experiments investigating plant-herbivore interactions have primarily focused on above-ground herbivory, with occasional studies evaluating the effect of below-ground herbivores on plant performance. This study investigated the growth of the wetland perennial Lythrum salicaria (purple loosestrife) under three levels of root herbivory by the weevil Hylobiustransversovittatus and three levels of plant competition by the grass Phleumpratense in a common garden. Plant growth, flowering phenology, and biomass allocation patterns of purple loosestrife were recorded for two growing seasons. During the first year, root herbivory reduced plant height; plant competition delayed flowering; and the interaction of root herbivory and plant competition resulted in reductions in plant height, shoot weight and total dry biomass. Plant competition or larval feeding did not affect the biomass allocation pattern in the first year. These results indicate the importance of interactions of plant competition and herbivory in reducing plant performance – at least during the establishment period of purple loosestrife. In the second growing season, root herbivory reduced plant height, biomass of all plant parts, delayed and shortened the flowering period, and changed the biomass allocation patterns. Plant competition delayed flowering and reduced the dry weight of fine roots. The interaction of root herbivory and plant competition delayed flowering. Root herbivory was more important than plant competition in reducing the performance of established purple loosestrife plants. This was due, in part, to intense intraspecific competition among the grass individuals effectively preventing shoot elongation of P. pratense and resulting in a carpet like growth.

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Received: 3 April 1997 / Accepted: 27 July 1997

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Nötzold, R., Blossey, B. & Newton, E. The influence of below ground herbivory and plant competition on growth and biomass allocation of purple loosestrife. Oecologia 113, 82–93 (1997). https://doi.org/10.1007/s004420050356

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  • Key words Plant-insect interaction
  • Root herbivory
  • Biomass allocation
  • Plant competition
  • Biological control