“Plant strategies along resource gradients”
Thomas Koffel, Tanguy Daufresne, François Massol, and Christopher A. Klausmeier (Sep 2018)
New eco-evo model on plant tolerance vs. resistance against herbivores along a resource gradient
Plants present a variety of defensive strategies against herbivores, broadly classified into tolerance and resistance. Since resource availability can also limit plant growth, we expect plant allocation to resource acquisition and defense to vary along resource gradients. Yet, the conditions under which one defensive strategy is favored over the other are unclear. Here, we use an eco-evolutionary model to investigate plant adaptive allocation to resource acquisition, tolerance and resistance along a resource gradient in a simple food web module inspired by plankton communities where plants compete for a single resource and are grazed upon by a shared herbivore. We show that undefended, acquisition-specialist strategies dominate under low resource supplies. Conversely, high resource supplies, which lead to high herbivore abundance because of trophic transfers, result in either the dominance of very resistant strategies or coexistence between a completely resistant strategy and a fast-growing, tolerant one. We also explore the consequences of this adaptive allocation on species biomasses. Finally, we compare our predictions to a more traditional, density-independent optimization model. We show that density-dependence mediated by resources and herbivores is the cause of the increase in plant resistance along the resource gradient, as the optimization model would instead have favored tolerance.