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Data from: Impact of predicted precipitation scenarios on multitrophic interactions

Cite this dataset

Wade, Ruth N.; Karley, Alison J.; Johnson, Scott N.; Hartley, Sue E. (2018). Data from: Impact of predicted precipitation scenarios on multitrophic interactions [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Predicted changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme rainfall events in the UK have the potential to disrupt terrestrial ecosystem function. However, responses of different trophic levels to these changes in rainfall patterns, and the underlying mechanisms, are not well characterised. 2. This study aimed to investigate how changes in both the quantity and frequency of rainfall events will affect the outcome of interactions between plants, insect herbivores (above- and below- ground) and natural enemies. 3. Hordeum vulgare L. plants were grown in controlled conditions and in the field, and subjected to three precipitation scenarios: ambient (based on a local 10 year average rainfall); continuous drought (40% reduction compared to ambient); drought/ deluge (40% reduction compared to ambient at a reduced frequency). The effects of these watering regimes and wireworm (Agriotes species) root herbivory on the performance of the plants, aphid herbivores above-ground (Sitobion avenae, Metapolophium dirhodum and Rhopalosiphum padi), and natural enemies of aphids including ladybirds (Harmonia axyridis) were assessed from measurements of plant growth, insect abundance and mass, and assays of feeding behaviour. 4. Continuous drought decreased plant biomass, whereas reducing the frequency of watering events did not affect plant biomass but did alter plant chemical composition. In controlled conditions, continuous drought ameliorated the negative impact of wireworms on plant biomass. 5. Compared to the ambient treatment, aphid mass was increased by 15% when feeding on plants subjected to drought/ deluge; and ladybirds were 66% heavier when feeding on these aphids but this did not affect ladybird prey choice. In field conditions, wireworms feeding below-ground reduced the number of shoot-feeding aphids under ambient and continuous drought conditions but not under drought/ deluge. 6. Predicted changes in both the frequency and intensity of precipitation events under climate change have the potential to limit plant growth, but reduce wireworm herbivory, while simultaneously promoting above-ground aphid numbers and mass, with these effects transferring to the third trophic level. Understanding the effect of future changes in precipitation on species interactions is critical for determining their potential impact on ecosystem functioning and constructing accurate predictions under global change scenarios.

Usage notes


United Kingdom