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Ecol Appl. 2006 Dec;16(6):2382-98.

Multiple plant exploiters on a shared host: testing for nonadditive effects on plant performance.

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Department of Entomology, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


The combined impact of multiple plant parasites on plant performance can either be additive (the total damage equals the sum of the individual effects) or nonadditive (synergistic or antagonistic damage). Two statistical models are available for testing the independent (=additive) effects of two factors. Here we suggest that the natural history of the plant-parasite system should motivate the choice of a statistical model to test for additivity. Using in-field, manipulative experiments, we examined the interactions between the herbivorous mite Calacarus flagelliseta Fletchmann, De Moraes and Barbosa (Acari: Eriophyidae), the fungal pathogen Oidium caricae F. Noack (a powdery mildew), and their host plant Carica papaya L. in Hawaii. First, we found that herbivorous mites had a moderate negative effect on powdery mildew: when mites were absent, powdery mildew colonies were larger and more numerous. Second, we showed that each plant parasite, when evaluated alone, significantly reduced several measures of plant performance. Third, we found that the combined impact of mites and mildew on plant performance is mostly additive and, for a few variables, less than additive. Finally, we explored compensatory responses and found no evidence for nonlinearities in the relationship between plant performance and cumulative parasite impact. Plants are almost universally subject to attack by multiple herbivores and pathogens; thus a deeper understanding of how multiple plant parasites shape each other's population dynamics and plant performance is essential to understanding plant-parasite interactions.

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