DFG Tansy Metacommunity dynamics

The project funded by DFG (SCHN653/7-1 2015-2017) is a co-operation between EUS and the Terrestrial Ecology Research Group at the Technische Universität München. The overall aim of this project is to show in a case study how community genetics and metacommunity ecology can be merged to provide a more general understanding of the mechanisms structuring local ecological communities. We aim to determine the effect of biotic factors (i.e. plant chemotype variation and species interactions) on the structure of a plant-insect-metacommunity consisting of phloem-feeding insects (aphids) on tansy plants, Tanacetum vulgare L. (Asteraceae). This aphid species interact with the plant, predators, and parasitoids and are differentially tended by ants. We will disentangle the effects of the plant host chemical diversity (volatile and non-volatile metabolome), natural enemies and ant-attendance on the spatial distribution, population genetics and dispersal of herbivores in the metacommunity. By understanding the relative effects of these forces, and the mode of effect (direct or indirect) we can begin to understand what factors are important for structuring the metacommunity, and how populations and species continue to exist in a metacommunity where unstable relationships cause frequent extinction and colonization events.

The specific aims are

  1. To determine the effect of intra-specific plant chemical diversity on herbivore, ant and predator distribution
  2. To estimate the effect of ants, predators and parasitoids on herbivore metapopulation persistence and
  3. To understand how direct (plant-insect, or insect-predator) and indirect (plant-(herbivore)-predator) effects influence the metacommunity structure

Selected publications

Clancy M, Zytynska SE, Senft M, Weisser WW, Schnitzler JP (2016) Chemotypic variation in terpenes emitted from storage pools influences early aphid colonisation on tansy.Scientific Reports 6, srep38087

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