Image_5_Invertebrate Decline Leads to Shifts in Plant Species Abundance and Phenology.pdf
Climate and land-use change lead to decreasing invertebrate biomass and alter invertebrate communities. These biotic changes may affect plant species abundance and phenology. Using 24 controlled experimental units in the iDiv Ecotron, we assessed the effects of invertebrate decline on an artificial grassland community formed by 12 herbaceous plant species. More specifically, we used Malaise traps and sweep nets to collect invertebrates from a local tall oatgrass meadow and included them in our Ecotron units at two different invertebrate densities: 100% (no invertebrate decline) and 25% (invertebrate decline of 75%). Another eight EcoUnits received no fauna and served as a control. Plant species abundance and flowering phenology was observed weekly over a period of 18 weeks. Our results showed that invertebrate densities affected the abundance and phenology of plant species. We observed a distinct species abundance shift with respect to the invertebrate treatment. Notably, this shift included a reduction in the abundance of the dominant plant species, Trifolium pratense, when invertebrates were present. Additionally, we found that the species shifted their flowering phenology as a response to the different invertebrate treatments, e.g. with decreasing invertebrate biomass Lotus corniculatus showed a later peak flowering time. We demonstrated that in addition to already well-studied abiotic drivers, biotic components may also drive phenological changes in plant communities. This study clearly suggests that invertebrate decline may contribute to already observed mismatches between plants and animals, with potential negative consequences for ecosystem services like food provision and pollination success. This deterioration of ecosystem function could enhance the loss of insects and plant biodiversity.