Grassland Plants Versus Their Consumers

Ecology and Environment

Recent research by MSI PIs Eric Seabloom (professor, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) and Linda Kinkel (professor, Plant Pathology) and their colleague Elizabeth Borer (professor, Ecology, Evolution, and Behavior) investigated defenses that plants have developed against pathogens and herbivores. They were surprised to discover that plants tend not to develop trade-offs in their defenses - that is, plants that are well-protected against, say, a fungus, also have strong defenses against deer or insects. They also found that diversity in the surrounding area affects plants’ susceptibility. This work was published earlier this month in the journal Ecology: EW Seabloom, ET Borer, LL Kinkel. 2018. No evidence for trade-offs in plant responses to consumer food web manipulations. Ecology, 1 August 2018.

This work is featured in a University Research Brief: No defense for some plants in the eat-or-be-eaten world of grasslands. The research was carried out at the University of Minnesota’s Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve. Many MSI PIs are among the faculty and administration of the Reserve.

Professors Seabloom and Borer are co-directors of the Nutrient Network, or NutNet, a global consortium that enables collaborative research that will advance knowledge about how ecosystems respond to global ecological changes. MSI provides hosting services for NutNet’s main MySQL database and analytical software for the group’s research. NutNet’s 10th anniversary was featured on the MSI website in March 2018: Nutrient Network Celebrates Ten Years of Collaborative Ecological Research.