Consequences of variation in plant defense for biodiversity at higher trophic levels

Poelman, E.H.; Loon, J.J.A. van; Dicke, M.


Antagonistic interactions between insect herbivores and plants impose selection on plants to defend themselves against these attackers. Although selection on plant defense traits has typically been studied for pairwise plant¿attacker interactions, other community members of plant-based food webs are unavoidably affected by these traits as well. A plant trait might, for example, affect parasitoids and predators feeding on the herbivore. Consequently, defensive plant traits structure the diversity and composition of the complex community associated with the plant, and communities as a whole also feed back to selection on plant traits. Here, we review recent developments in our understanding of how plant defense traits structure insect communities and discuss how molecular mechanisms might drive community-wide effects.