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Data from: Organismal responses to habitat change: herbivore performance, climate, and leaf traits in regenerating tropical dry forests

Citation

Agosta, Salvatore J.; Hulshof, Catherine M.; Staats, Ethan G. (2018), Data from: Organismal responses to habitat change: herbivore performance, climate, and leaf traits in regenerating tropical dry forests, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.dg715

Abstract

1. The ecological effects of large-scale climate change have received much attention, but the effects of the more acute form of climate change that results from local habitat alteration have been less explored. When forest is fragmented, cut, thinned, cleared or otherwise altered in structure, local climates and microclimates change. Such changes can affect herbivores both directly (e.g., through changes in body temperature) and indirectly (e.g., through changes in host plant traits). 2. We advance an eco-physiological framework to understand the effects of changing forests on herbivorous insects. We hypothesize that if tropical forest caterpillars are climate and resource specialists, then they should have reduced performance outside of mature forest conditions. 3. We tested this hypothesis with a field experiment contrasting the performance of Rothschildia lebeau (Saturniidae) caterpillars feeding on the host plant Casearia nitida (Salicaceae) in two different aged and structured tropical dry forests in Area de Conservación Guanacaste, Costa Rica. 4. Compared to more mature closed-canopy forest, in younger secondary forest we found that: (1) ambient conditions were hotter, drier, and more variable; (2) caterpillar growth and development were reduced; and (3) leaves were tougher, thicker, and drier. Further, caterpillar growth and survival were negatively correlated with these leaf traits, suggesting indirect host-mediated effects of climate on herbivores. 5. Based on the available evidence, and relative to mature forest, we conclude that reduced herbivore performance in young secondary forest could have been driven by changes in climate, leaf traits (which were likely climate induced), or both. However, additional studies will be needed to provide more direct evidence of cause-and-effect and to disentangle the relative influence of these factors on herbivore performance in this system.

Usage Notes

Location

Area de Conservación Guanacaste
Costa Rica