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Below-ground herbivory promotes soil nutirent transfer and root growth in grassland.

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>11/1999
<mark>Journal</mark>Ecology Letters
Issue number6
Number of pages4
Pages (from-to)357-360
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Extremely little is known about the ecosystem-level implications of below-ground herbivory, which often represents the dominant form of consumption of primary productivity. We provide the first empirical evidence that low levels of below-ground herbivory may promote soil nutrient flux and root growth of both host plants and companion plants. Low levels of white clover (Trifolium repens L.) root infection by clover cyst nematodes (Heterodera trifolii Goffart) increased root growth by 141% and 219% in the host plant and the uninfected neighbouring grass (Lolium perenne L.), respectively. Root infection increased the size of the soil microbial biomass in the root zone and the transfer of 15N from the host plant to soil and the neighbouring grass. These data suggest that low amounts of below-ground herbivory may increase the transfer of plant carbon and nitrogen below-ground, leading to increases in root growth and soil nutrient recycling in grasslands. Presumably, such interactions will influence the competitive interactions between plant species, altering plant community structure in grasslands.