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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 634:89-97 (2020)  -  DOI:

Temporal variation in positive and negative interactions between marsh herbivores mediated by changes in plant traits

Alejandro D. Canepuccia1,*, Daniela Alemany1, Esteban Espinosa Vidal2, M. Fernanda Alvarez3, Oscar O. Iribarne1

1Laboratorio de Ecología, Instituto De Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (IIMYC), FCEYN, UNMDP-CONICET, CC1260, 7600 Mar del Plata, Argentina
2Center for Strategic Technologies of the Northeastern Region (CETENE), Cidade Universitária, Recife 50740-545, Pernambuco State, Brazil
3Instituto de Limnología ‘Raúl A. Ringuelet’ (ILPLA, CONICET), Universidad Nacional de La Plata, 1900 La Plata, Argentina
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Studies on bidirectional benefactor-beneficiary interactions between organisms have generally neglected the importance of this feedback in trophic levels other than plants. The burrowing crab Neohelice granulata aids the development of larvae of the stem-boring moth Haimbachia sp. nov. within the stems of Spartina alterniflora. In our research, we evaluated whether the stem-boring moth subsequently influences crab feeding on these marsh plants. Surveys and experiments in a tidal marsh of the SW Atlantic coast (36°22’S) showed that at the beginning of the stem-boring moth attack there was no difference in crab herbivory between plants with or without larvae of the stem-boring moth. However, after 3.5 mo, crabs foraged more on plants without larvae than on those with larvae. Plant tissue analyses showed a decrease in leaf tissue carbon concentrations in plants with larvae. This change in the nutritional quality of leaves, caused by construction of the stem-boring moth galleries, could explain the segregation in plant use between both herbivores. Unlike an allelochemical response, the non-specificity of the induced nutritional change could impair a wide variety of herbivores regardless of their feeding modes or taxonomic proximity. These effects could propagate bottom-up through the food-web, leading to more diffuse interspecific effects. Thus, here we show how the benefactor-beneficiary feedback between herbivores can be important for the maintenance of species coexistence and the functioning of communities.

KEY WORDS: Positive-negative interactions · Indirect interactions · Benefactor-beneficiary relationship · Facilitation · Herbivory · Plant-mediated interactions · Salt marsh · Crabs · Stem-boring moth

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Cite this article as: Canepuccia AD, Alemany D, Espinosa Vidal E, Alvarez MF, Iribarne OO (2020) Temporal variation in positive and negative interactions between marsh herbivores mediated by changes in plant traits. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 634:89-97.

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