Ecological stoichiometry and nutrient partitioning in two insect herbivores responsible for large-scale forest disturbance in the Fennoscandian subarctic
AuthorMetcalfe, Daniel B.; Cherif, Mehdi; Jepsen, Jane Uhd; Vindstad, Ole Petter Laksforsmo; Kristensen, Jeppe Å.; Belsing, Ulrika
1. Outbreaks of herbivorous insects can have large impacts on regional soil carbon (C) storage and nutrient cycling. In northernmost Europe, population outbreaks of several geometrid moth species regularly cause large‐scale defoliation in subarctic birch forests. An improved understanding is required of how leaf C and nutrients are processed after ingestion by herbivores and what this means for the quantity and quality of different materials produced (frass, bodies).
2. In this study, larvae of two geometrid species responsible for major outbreaks (Epirrita autumnata and Operophtera brumata) were raised on exclusive diets of var. czerepanovii (N. I. Orlova) Hämet Ahti and two other abundant understorey species (Betula nana, Vaccinium myrtillus). The quantities of C, nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) ingested and allocated to frass, bodies and (in the case of C) respired were recorded.
3. Overall, 23%, 70% and 48% of ingested C, N and P were allocated to bodies, respectively, rather than frass and (in the case of C) respiration. Operophtera brumata consistently maintained more constant body stoichiometric ratios of C, N and P than did E. autumnata, across the wide variation in physico‐chemical properties of plant diet supplied.
4. These observed differences and similarities on C and nutrient processing may improve researchers' ability to predict the amount and stoichiometry of frass and bodies generated after geometrid outbreaks.