Galling by Rhopalomyia solidaginis alters Solidago altissima architecture and litter nutrient dynamics in an old-field ecosystem
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Crutsinger, GM and Habenicht, MN and Classen, AT and Schweitzer, J and Sanders, NJ, Galling by Rhopalomyia solidaginis alters Solidago altissima architecture and litter nutrient dynamics in an old-field ecosystem, Plant and Soil: International Journal on Plant-Soil Relationships, 303, (1-2) pp. 95-103 . ISSN 0032-079X (2008) [Refereed Article]
Plant-insect interactions can alter ecosystem processes, especially if the insects modify plant architecture, quality, or the quantity of leaf litter inputs. In this study, we investigated the interactions between the rosette gall midge Rhopalomyia solidaginis and tall goldenrod, Solidago altissima, to quantify the degree to which the midge alters plant architecture and how the galls affect rates of litter decomposition and nutrient release in an old-field ecosystem. R. solidaginis commonly leads to the formation of a distinct apical rosette gall on S. altissima and approximately 15% of the ramets in a S. altissima patch were galled (range: 3-34%). Aboveground biomass of galled ramets was 60% higher and the leaf area density was four times greater on galled leaf tissue relative to the portions of the plant that were not affected by the gall. Overall decomposition rate constants did not differ between galled and ungalled leaf litter. However, leaf-litter mass loss was lower in galled litter relative to ungalled litter, which was likely driven by modest differences in initial litter chemistry; this effect diminished after 12 weeks of decomposition in the field. The proportion of N remaining was always higher in galled litter than in ungalled litter at each collection date indicating differential release of nitrogen in galled leaf litter. Several studies have shown that plant-insect interactions on woody species can alter ecosystem processes by affecting the quality or quantity of litter inputs. Our results illustrate how plant-insect interactions in an herbaceous species can affect ecosystem processes by altering the quality and quantity of litter inputs. Given that S. altissima dominates fields and that R. solidaginis galls are highly abundant throughout eastern North America, these interactions are likely to be important for both the structure and function of old-field ecosystems. © 2007 Springer Science+Business Media B.V.
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