Sodium addition increases leaf herbivory and fungal damage across four grasslands

TitleSodium addition increases leaf herbivory and fungal damage across four grasslands
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2021
AuthorsWelti, EAR, Kaspari, M
JournalFunctional Ecology
Accession NumberKNZ002056

    1. Sodium (Na) is an essential element for all animals, but not plants. Soil Na supplies vary geographically. Animals that primarily consume plants thus have the potential to be Na limited and plants that uptake Na may be subject to higher rates of herbivory, but their high Na content also may attract beneficial partners such as pollinators and seed dispersers.
    2. To test for the effects of Na biogeochemistry on herbivory, we conducted distributed Na press experiments (monthly Na application across the growing season) in four North American grasslands.
    3. Na addition increased soil and plant Na concentrations at all sites. Grasses in Na addition plots had significantly higher herbivore damage by leaf miners and fungal pathogens than those in control plots. Forbs with higher foliar Na concentrations had significantly more chewing insect herbivore and fungal damage.
    4. While no pattern was evident across all species, several forb species had higher Na concentrations in inflorescences compared to leaves, suggesting they may allocate Na to attract beneficial partners.
    5. The uptake of sodium by plants, and animal responses, has implications for the salinification in the Anthropocene. Increased use of road salt, irrigation with saline groundwater, rising sea levels, and increasing temperatures and evapotranspiration rates with climate change can all increase inputs of sodium into terrestrial ecosystems.
    6. Our results suggest increasing terrestrial sodium availability will benefit insect herbivores and plant fungal pathogens.