Priming of plant defence by below- and aboveground herbivores
PROJECT HAS BEEN COMPLETED IN PHASE I
Plant defence can be systemically induced by both above- and belowground herbivores. Previous herbivory may also “prime” plants to respond more efficiently to subsequent herbivores. However, it is largely unknown whether priming mechanisms link below- and aboveground plant parts to optimise plant defence. Thus I aim to know whether and how belowground herbivory early in the season primes plants to be better defended against subsequent aboveground herbivores and vice versa. Both below- and aboveground generalist and specialist herbivores will be investigated as priming and triggering stimuli. The priming responses of r- and K-strategist plant species (Nicotiana attenuata and Solanum dulcamara) will be compared and greenhouse and field studies will be combined in order to investigate both the priming mechanisms and their relevance in the field. The goal is to find out whether (i) priming plays a role in the seasonal succession of herbivores feeding on a plant, (ii) priming is more effective against specialist than generalist herbivores, and (iii) plants with contrasting life strategies differ in their priming responses.
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