Herbivory differentially alters plant litter dynamics of evergreen and deciduous trees

Samantha K. Chapman, Thomas G. Whitham, Merriam Powell, Jennifer A. Schweitzer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Here we propose that herbivore-induced changes in leaf litter quality can modify aboveground litterfall dynamics differentially in evergreen and deciduous trees. Because aboveground plant litterfall is an important source of nutrients in terrestrial ecosystems, any factor that alters plant litter quality can have large "afterlife" effects on the decomposition rate of that litter and the subsequent rate of nutrient release. Two contrasting patterns emerge from the literature and are corroborated by our two experimental case studies. First, in evergreens, herbivory commonly results in premature leaf abscission, improved litter "quality" and an acceleration of litter decomposition. Second, in deciduous trees, herbivory commonly results in the induction of secondary compounds that decelerates decomposition. We argue that these broad patterns reflect predictable differential responses to herbivores that can have important consequences for terrestrial nutrient cycling and productivity and that warrant more attention in the literature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)566-574
Number of pages9
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2006

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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