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Data from: Herbivores modify selection on plant functional traits in a temperate rainforest understory

Citation

Salgado-Luarte, Cristian; Gianoli, Ernesto (2012), Data from: Herbivores modify selection on plant functional traits in a temperate rainforest understory, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.53tr05j2

Abstract

There is limited evidence regarding the adaptive value of plant functional traits in contrasting light environments. It has been suggested that changes in these traits in response to light availability can increase herbivore susceptibility. We tested the adaptive value of plant functional traits linked with carbon gain in contrasting light environments and also evaluated whether herbivores can modify selection on these traits in each light environment. In a temperate rainforest, we examined phenotypic selection on functional traits in seedlings of the pioneer tree Aristotelia chilensis growing in sun (canopy gap) and shade (forest understory) and subjected to either natural herbivory or herbivore exclusion. We found differential selection on functional traits depending on light environment. In sun, there was positive directional selection on photosynthetic rate and relative growth rate (RGR), indicating that selection favors competitive ability in a high-resource environment. Seedlings with high specific leaf area (SLA) and intermediate RGR were selected in shade, suggesting that light capture and conservative resource use are favored in the understory. Herbivores reduced the strength of positive directional selection acting on SLA in shade. We provide the first demonstration that natural herbivory rates can change the strength of selection on plant ecophysiological traits, that is, attributes whose main function is resource uptake. Research addressing the evolution of shade tolerance should incorporate the selective role of herbivores.

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