Background: The effect of low nutrient availability on plant-consumer interactions during early succession is poorly understood. The low productivity and complexity of primary successional communities are expected to limit diversity and abundance of arthropods, but few studies have examined arthropod responses to enhanced nutrient supply in this context. We investigated the effects of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) addition on plant productivity and arthropod abundance on 24-yr-old soils at Mount St. Helens volcano. Methodology/Principal Findings:We measured the relative abundance of eight arthropod orders and five families in plots that received N, P, or no nutrients for 3-5 years. We also measured plant % cover, leaf %N, and plant diversity. Vegetation responded rapidly to N addition but showed a lagged response to P that, combined with evidence of increased N fixation, suggested P-limitation to N availability. After 3 yrs of fertilization, orthopterans (primarily Anabrus simplex (Tettigoniidae) and Melanoplus spp (Acrididae)) showed a striking attraction to P addition plots, while no other taxa responded to fertilization. After 5 yrs of fertilization, orthopteran density in the same plots increased 80%-130% with P addition and 40% with N. Using structural equation modeling, we show that in year 3 orthopteran abundance was associated with a P-mediated increase in plant cover (or correlated increases in resource quality), whereas in year 5 orthopteran density was not related to cover, diversity or plant %N, but rather to unmeasured effects of P, such as its influence on other aspects of resource quality. Conclusions/Significance:The marked surprising response to P by orthopterans, combined with a previous observation of P-limitation in lepidopteran herbivores at these sites, suggests that P-mediated effects of food quantity or quality are critical to insect herbivores in this N-P co-limited primary successional system. Our results also support a previous suggestion that the availability of N in these soils is P-limited. © 2010 Bishop et al.
Bishop J.G., O'Hara N.B., Titus J.H., Apple J.L., Gill R.A., Wynn L. (2010) N-P co-limitation of primary production and response of arthropods to N and P in early primary succession on Mount St. Helens Volcano. PLoS ONE 5: -. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0013598