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Slug grazing effects on seedling and adult life stages of North American Prairie plants used in designed urban landscapes

By James Hitchmough and Markus Wagner

Abstract

Designed vegetation is a major contributor to ecosystem service provision incities, and as such the study of how herbivory and other ecological factors determine its\ud capacity to deliver such services, is long overdue. This study investigated the effect of slug grazing on the establishment and development of 26 species of North American prairie forbs and grasses used in sown or planted naturalistic communities in urban greenspace. The experiment was designed to provide slugs with the opportunity to choose between the plant species used, to mirror the situation that prevails in public greenspace. Slug density was manipulated through baiting with metaldehyde at different frequencies. Seedlings of prairie species were more palatable to slugs than adults.\ud Seedling establishment was significantly reduced in most species by slug grazing, with only seven species showing no significant increase in establishment in response to\ud baiting with metaldehyde. In many species successful establishment was based on moderate-high unpalatability and large or fast growing seedlings. Adult prairie plants\ud were typically more able to withstand slug damage, and once their shoots reached a certain size, grazing declined. This was not true of the most palatable species, which\ud even as adults were eventually eliminated by grazing in the absence of baiting. Phenology plays an important role in the survival of adults, with early emerging species\ud potentially subject to severe damage due to the limited availability of alternate food plants. As a group, prairie forbs are typically palatable to slugs, and unlikely to be\ud persistent in the most slug-rich urban situations

Topics: Botany, Ecology and Environment
Year: 2011
DOI identifier: 10.1007/s11252-011-0154-y
OAI identifier: oai:nora.nerc.ac.uk:15208

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