Species and community-level responses to warming are well documented, with plants and invertebrates known to alter their range, phenology or composition as temperature increases. The effects of warming on biotic interactions are less clearly understood, but can have consequences that cascade through ecological networks. Here, we used a natural soil temperature gradient of 5–35°C in the Hengill geothermal valley, Iceland, to investigate the effects of temperature on plant community composition and plant–invertebrate interactions. We quantified the level of invertebrate herbivory on the plant community across the temperature gradient and the interactive effects of temperature, plant phenology (i.e. development stage) and vegetation community composition on the probability of herbivory for three ubiquitous plant species, Cardamine pratensis, Cerastium fontanum and Viola palustris. We found that the percentage cover of graminoids and forbs increased, while the amount of litter decreased, with increasing soil temperature. Invertebrate herbivory also increased with soil temperature at the plant community level, but this was underpinned by different effects of temperature on herbivory for individual plant species, mediated by the seasonal development of plants and the composition of the surrounding vegetation. This illustrates the importance of considering the development stage of organisms in climate change research given the variable effects of temperature on susceptibility to herbivory at different ontogenetic stages.
- 1181 Ekologia, evoluutiobiologia