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Ecology. 2008 Jun;89(6):1497-502.

Pulses of dead periodical cicadas increase herbivory of American bellflowers.

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  • 1Department of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106-9610, USA.


Resource pulses can have both direct bottom-up and indirect top-down effects on their consumers, but comparatively few studies have investigated the top-down effects of naturally occurring resource pulses on plants. This study describes two years of field experiments conducted to determine the indirect effects of 17-year periodical cicadas (Magicicada spp.) on herbivory in American bellflowers (Campanulastrum americanum). In 2004, the area of damaged leaves on cicada-supplemented plants was 78% greater than the area of damaged leaves on control plants. In 2005, cicada-supplemented plants were more likely to experience herbivory by mammalian herbivores than control plants. When large herbivores were excluded, similar patterns of leaf herbivory were observed, but these differences were not statistically significant. These results suggest that the pulsed input of dead periodical cicada bodies increased rates of herbivory on bellflowers, and that this effect was largely mediated by the selective foraging of large mammalian herbivores. More broadly, this study suggests that pulses of limiting resources can have both positive direct effects on plants and negative indirect effects due to selective herbivory, and that the net effects of pulsed resources on plants may depend on the composition and behavior of the surrounding herbivore community.

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