Can the Evolution of Plant Defense Lead to Plant-Herbivore Mutualism?

de Mazancourt, C., Loreau, M., & Dieckmann, U. ORCID: (2001). Can the Evolution of Plant Defense Lead to Plant-Herbivore Mutualism? IIASA Interim Report. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: IR-01-053

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Moderate rates of herbivory can enhance primary production. This hypothesis has led to a controversy as to whether such positive effects can result in mutualistic interactions between plants and herbivores. We present a model for the ecology and evolution of plant-herbivore systems to address this question. In this model, herbivores have a positive indirect effect on plants through recycling of a limiting nutrient. Plants can evolve but are constrained by a trade-off between growth and antiherbivore defense. Although evolution generally does not lead to optimal plant performance, our evolutionary analysis shows that, under certain conditions, the plant-herbivore interaction can be considered mutualistic. This requires in particular that herbivores efficiently recycle nutrients and that plant reproduction be positively correlated with primary production. We emphasize that two different definitions of mutualism need to be distinguished. A first ecological definition of mutualism is based on the short-term response of plants to herbivore removal, whereas a second evolutionary definition rests on the long-term response of plants to herbivore removal, allowing plants to adapt to the absence of herbivores. The conditions for an evolutionary mutualism are more stringent than those for an ecological mutualism. A particularly counterintuitive result is that higher herbivore recycling efficiency results both in increased plant benefits and in the evolution of increased plant defense. Thus, antagonistic evolution occurs within a mutualistic interaction.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Interim Report)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Plant-herbivore interaction; Nutrient cycling; Grazing optimization; Evolution; Adaptive dynamics; Mutualism
Research Programs: Adaptive Dynamics Network (ADN)
Depositing User: IIASA Import
Date Deposited: 15 Jan 2016 02:13
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:17

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