SP 9: Plant insect interactions

Plant insect interactions

Principal investigator(s):

Prof. Dr. Alexandra-Maria Klein (University of Lueneburg)  

Co-Principal investigator(s):

Prof. Dr. Nico Blüthgen (University of Darmstadt)  

Phd candidate(s):

Michael Staab (University of Lueneburg)  

Contact adress:

Leuphana University Lüneburg, Institute of Ecology, Ecosystem Functions Group, Scharnhorststraße 1, 21335 Lüneburg, Germany


Plant and insect biodiversity shape the complexity of multi-trophic interactions, which, in turn, influence plant performance and overall community structure in an ecosystem. Analyses of insect-mediated multi-trophic interactions are therefore crucial to understand the role of tree diversity and composition for ecosystem processes in forest habitats.

We focus on the multi-trophic interaction structure within two food web systems: cavity-nesting hymenoptera (solitary bees and wasps) parasitoids (flies and wasps); trees, leaf-sucking aphids, and tending ants.

Crematogaster sp. tending aphids on Schima superba (M. Staab)

Both systems are investigated in the main experiment as well as in the CSPs. We also link the food web structure of the tree-aphid-ant system to the quantity and diversity of sugars and amino acids in the aphids’ honeydew. The importance of specific honeydew compounds to their interacting ant partners are examined with choice experiments. Moreover, interactions between the systems are investigated, e.g. the effects of ants on the trophic interactions of the cavity-nesting community

This sub-project provides year-round data on trophic cascades and food web structure. Such data are critical to study the role of top-down versus bottom-up effects for a better understanding of how plant diversity can be used to stabilize forest ecosystems.

Trap nest on study plot in Gutianshan National Nature Reserve (M. Staab)