How food webs are structured has major implications for their stability and dynamics. While poorly studied to date, arctic food webs are commonly assumed to be simple in structure, with few links per species. If this is the case, then different parts of the web may be weakly connected to each other, with populations and species united by only a low number of links. We provide the first highly resolved description of trophic link structure for a large part of a high-arctic food web. For this purpose, we apply a combination of recent techniques to describing the links between three predator guilds (insectivorous birds, spiders, and lepidopteran parasitoids) and their two dominant prey orders (Diptera and Lepidoptera). The resultant web shows a dense link structure and no compartmentalization or modularity across the three predator guilds. Thus, both individual predators and predator guilds tap heavily into the prey community of each other, offering versatile scope for indirect interactions across different parts of the web. The current description of a first but single arctic web may serve as a benchmark toward which to gauge future webs resolved by similar techniques. Targeting an unusual breadth of predator guilds, and relying on techniques with a high resolution, it suggests that species in this web are closely connected. Thus, our findings call for similar explorations of link structure across multiple guilds in both arctic and other webs. From an applied perspective, our description of an arctic web suggests new avenues for understanding how arctic food webs are built and function and of how they respond to current climate change. It suggests that to comprehend the community-level consequences of rapid arctic warming, we should turn from analyses of populations, population pairs, and isolated predator-prey interactions to considering the full set of interacting species.
Host-parasitoid systems are characterized by a continuous development of new defence strategies in hosts and counter-defence mechanisms in parasitoids. This co-evolutionary arms race makes host-parasitoid systems excellent for understanding trade-offs in host use caused by evolutionary changes in host immune responses and parasitoid virulence. However, knowledge obtained from natural host-parasitoid systems on such trade-offs is still limited. In this study, the aim was to examine trade-offs in parasitoid virulence in Asecodes parviclava (Hymenoptera: Eulophidae) when attacking three closely related beetles: Galerucella pusilla, Galerucella calmariensis and Galerucella tenella (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae). A second aim was to examine whether geographic variation in parasitoid infectivity or host immune response could explain differences in parasitism rate between northern and southern sites. More specifically, we wanted to examine whether the capacity to infect host larvae differed depending on the previous host species of the parasitoids and if such differences were connected to differences in the induction of host immune systems. This was achieved by combining controlled parasitism experiments with cytological studies of infected larvae. Our results reveal that parasitism success in A.?parviclava differs both depending on previous and current host species, with a higher virulence when attacking larvae of the same species as the previous host. Virulence was in general high for parasitoids from G.?pusilla and low for parasitoids from G.?calmariensis. At the same time, G.?pusilla larvae had the strongest immune response and G.?calmariensis the weakest. These observations were linked to changes in the larval hemocyte composition, showing changes in cell types important for the encapsulation process in individuals infected by more or less virulent parasitoids. These findings suggest ongoing evolution in parasitoid virulence and host immune response, making the system a strong candidate for further studies on host race formation and speciation.
Herbivory can negatively affect several components of plant reproduction. Yet, because of a lack of experimental studies involving multiple populations, the extent to which differences in herbivory contribute to among-population variation in plant reproductive success is poorly known. We experimentally determined the effects of insect herbivory on reproductive output in nine natural populations of the perennial herb Lythrum salicaria along a disturbance gradient in an archipelago in northern Sweden, and we quantified among-population differentiation in resistance to herbivory in a common-garden experiment in the same area. The intensity of leaf herbivory varied >500-fold and mean female reproductive success >400-fold among the study populations. The intensity of herbivory was lowest in populations subject to strong disturbance from ice and wave action. Experimental removal of insect herbivores showed that the effect of herbivory on female reproductive success was correlated with the intensity of herbivory and that differences in insect herbivory could explain much of the among-population variation in the proportion of plants flowering and seed production. Population differentiation in resistance to herbivory was limited. The results demonstrate that the intensity of herbivory is a major determinant of flowering and seed output in L. salicaria, but that differences in herbivory are not associated with differences in plant resistance at the spatial scale examined. They further suggest that the physical disturbance regime may strongly influence the performance and abundance of perennial herbs and patterns of selection not only because of its effect on interspecific competition, but also because of effects on interactions with specialized herbivores.