Molecular assessment of herbivory in soil invertebrates

K. Staudacher, K. Schallhart, C. Wallinger, M. Traugott (PI)

 

Trophic interactions are a key factor coining the dynamics present in floral and faunal communities. Assessing trophic interactions under natural conditions, however, is not a simple task. This is especially true for soil food webs where the opaque habitat hampers the identification of feeding relationships. Within this project we will use DNA-based gut content analysis to assess how herbivorous soil insects trophically exploit below-ground plant biodiversity. Besides, stable isotope analysis and a detailed analysis of plant assemblage structure will be employed to determine the trophic links between below-ground herbivores and plants in systems harbouring different levels of plant biodiversity. We will choose Agriotes wireworms, the larvae of click beetles, as below ground herbivores, as they are generalist plant feeders, abundant in soils and a serious pest worldwide.

 

Funding: Austrian Science Fund (FWF) Project number P20377

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