Data from: Community- weighted mean plant traits predict small scale distribution of insect root herbivore abundance
Sonnemann, Ilja; Pfestorf, Hans; Jeltsch, Florian; Wurst, Susanne (2016), Data from: Community- weighted mean plant traits predict small scale distribution of insect root herbivore abundance, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.t87f0
Small scale distribution of insect root herbivores may promote plant species diversity by creating patches of different herbivore pressure. However, determinants of small scale distribution of insect root herbivores, and impact of land use intensity on their small scale distribution are largely unknown. We sampled insect root herbivores and measured vegetation parameters and soil water content along transects in grasslands of different management intensity in three regions in Germany. We calculated community-weighted mean plant traits to test whether the functional plant community composition determines the small scale distribution of insect root herbivores. To analyze spatial patterns in plant species and trait composition and insect root herbivore abundance we computed Mantel correlograms. Insect root herbivores mainly comprised click beetle (Coleoptera, Elateridae) larvae (43%) in the investigated grasslands. Total insect root herbivore numbers were positively related to community-weighted mean traits indicating high plant growth rates and biomass (specific leaf area, reproductive- and vegetative plant height), and negatively related to plant traits indicating poor tissue quality (leaf C/N ratio). Generalist Elaterid larvae, when analyzed independently, were also positively related to high plant growth rates and furthermore to root dry mass, but were not related to tissue quality. Insect root herbivore numbers were not related to plant cover, plant species richness and soil water content. Plant species composition and to a lesser extent plant trait composition displayed spatial autocorrelation, which was not influenced by land use intensity. Insect root herbivore abundance was not spatially autocorrelated. We conclude that in semi-natural grasslands with a high share of generalist insect root herbivores, insect root herbivores affiliate with large, fast growing plants, presumably because of availability of high quantities of food. Affiliation of insect root herbivores with large, fast growing plants may counteract dominance of those species, thus promoting plant diversity.