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Volume 90, Issue 2 p. 388-398

Warming strengthens an herbivore–plant interaction

Mary I. O'Connor

Corresponding Author

Mary I. O'Connor

Curriculum in Ecology and Department of Marine Sciences, The University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina 27599-3275 USA

E-mail: [email protected]Search for more papers by this author
First published: 01 February 2009
Citations: 274

Corresponding Editor: J. J. Stachowicz.


Temperature has strong, predictable effects on metabolism. Through this mechanism, environmental temperature affects individuals and populations of poikilotherms by determining rates of resource use, growth, reproduction, and mortality. Predictable variation in metabolic processes such as growth and reproduction could affect the strength of species interactions, but the community-level consequences of metabolic temperature dependence are virtually unexplored. I experimentally tested the hypothesis that plant–herbivore interaction strength increases with temperature using a common species of marine macroalga (Sargassum filipendula) and the grazing amphipod Ampithoe longimana. Increasing temperature increased per capita interaction strength in two independent experiments and reversed a positive effect of temperature on plant growth. Temperature did not alter palatability of plant tissue to herbivores or average herbivore feeding rate. A predictable effect of temperature on herbivore–plant interaction strength could provide key information toward understanding local food web responses to changing temperatures at different spatial and temporal scales. Efforts to extend the effects of physiological mechanisms to larger scale patterns, including projections of the ecological effects of climate change, must be expanded to include the effects of changing conditions on trophic interactions.