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Urbanization and plant pathogen infection interact to affect the outcome of ecological interactions in an experimental multitrophic system

Srisakrapikoop, U., Pirie, T. J. and Fellowes, M. D. E. ORCID: (2022) Urbanization and plant pathogen infection interact to affect the outcome of ecological interactions in an experimental multitrophic system. Journal of Urban Ecology, 8 (1). ISSN 2058-5543

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1093/jue/juab039


Urbanization can change interactions in insect communities, and the few studies of tritrophic interactions in urban settings focus on interactions between plants, herbivorous insects and their mutualists and natural enemies. Plant pathogen infection is also widespread and common, and infection may also alter such interactions, but we have no understanding of whether the ecological consequences of pathogen infection vary with urbanization. Using replicated aphid colonies on experimental plants, we investigated how infection by the plant pathogen Botrytis cinerea influences interactions between plants, aphids and the aphid natural enemies and ant mutualists in highly urbanized, suburban and rural study sites. Aphid and natural enemy abundance were highest in the suburban site, while mutualist ants were most abundant in the urban site, reversing the usual positive density-dependent relationship between natural enemies and aphids. The effect of pathogen infection varied with trait and site, mediated by natural enemy preference for hosts or prey on uninfected plants. The effect of infection on aphid abundance was only seen in the suburban site, where natural enemies were most abundant on uninfected plants and aphid numbers were greatest on infected plants. In the urban site, there was no effect of infection, while in the rural site, aphid numbers were lower on infected plants. Uninfected plants were smaller than infected plants and differed between locations. This study suggests that the effects of urbanization on ecological interactions may become more complex and difficult to predict as we study ecological assemblages and communities at greater levels of structural complexity.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:102223
Publisher:Oxford University Press

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