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Leaf dry matter content as an integrative expression of plant palatability: The case of freshwater macrophytes

Citation
Elger A & Willby N (2003) Leaf dry matter content as an integrative expression of plant palatability: The case of freshwater macrophytes, Functional Ecology, 17 (1), pp. 58-65.

Abstract

1) We examined the possibility of using the dry matter content (DMC) of macrophytes (the ratio of dry mass to wet mass) as an integrative variable to predict their palatability to generalist invertebrate grazers.

2) We assessed the palatability of 20 macrophyte species, using the snail Lymnaea stagnalis (L.) in non-choice feeding experiments. Three of the species were studied at two different dates in the year, at two or four sites.

3) The average dry mass consumed by L. stagnalis ranged widely between species, and was negatively correlated to plant DMC. At the intraspecific level, the dry mass consumed varied over time but was not related to site location. Again, the dry mass consumed was negatively correlated to plant DMC.

4) The DMC of the macrophytes studied explained about 30% of interspecific variability, and >80% of seasonal variability, in snail consumption rate. Therefore this trait could be used as a shortcut to predict variations in macrophyte palatability, especially at the intraspecific level. At the interspecific level, the relationship between DMC and palatability might be weakened by the presence in some plants of low molecular weight chemical deterrents.

Keywords
Alismatales; feeding experiment; grazing; invertebrate herbivory; plant traits

StatusPublished
AuthorsElger Arnaud, Willby Nigel
Publication date02/2003
PublisherWiley-Blackwell
ISSN 0269-8463
LanguageEnglish

Journal
Functional Ecology: Volume 17, Issue 1 (2003)

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