Genetically-based plant resistance traits affect arthropods, fungi, and birds

Lara Lee Dickson, Thomas G. Whitham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


We examine how the distribution of a leaf-galling aphid (Pemphigus betae) affects other species associated with natural stands of hybrid cottonwoods (Populus angustifolia x P. fremontii). Aphid transfers on common-garden clones and RFLP analysis show that resistance to aphids cottonwoods is affected by plant genotype. Because susceptible trees typically support thousands of galls, while adjacent resistant trees have few or none, plant resistance traits that affect the distribution of this abundant herbivore may directly and/or indirectly affect other species. We found that the arthropod community of aphid-susceptible trees had 31% greater species richness and 26% greater relative abundance than aphid- resistant trees. To examine direct and indirect effects of plant resistance traits on other organisms, we experimentally excluded aphids and found that abundances and/or foraging behavior of arthropods, fungi, and birds were altered. First, exclusion of gall aphids on susceptible trees resulted in a 24% decrease in species richness and a 28% decrease in relative abundance of the arthropod community. Second, exclusion of aphids also caused a 2-to 3- fold decrease in foraging and/or presence of three taxa of aphid enemies: birds, fungi, and insects. Lastly, aphi-exclusion resulted in a 2- fold increase in inquilines (animals who live in abodes properly belonging to another). We also found that fungi and birds responded to variation in gall density at the branch level. We conclude plant resistance traits affect diverse species from three trophic levels supporting a 'bottom- up' influence of plants on community structure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)400-406
Number of pages7
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1996


  • Aphids
  • Community structure
  • Indirect effects
  • Plant resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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