Nitrogen enrichment of host plants has mostly beneficial effects on the life-history traits of nettle-feeding butterflies

Autor(en): Kurze, Susanne
Heinken, Thilo
Fartmann, Thomas 
Stichwörter: Aglais; Ecology; Environmental Sciences & Ecology; Fertilization; FOOD PLANTS; Host-plant quality; Landscape eutrophication; LARVAL PERFORMANCE; LEAF NITROGEN; LINEAR MIXED MODELS; LYCAENA-TITYRUS; Nitrogen-limitation hypothesis; OVIPOSITION PREFERENCE; QUALITY; Rearing experiment; SPECIALIST INSECT; STINGING NETTLE; URTICA-DIOICA
Erscheinungsdatum: 2017
Herausgeber: ELSEVIER
Band: 85
Startseite: 157
Seitenende: 164
Butterflies rank among the most threatened animal groups throughout Europe. However, current population trends differ among species. The nettle-feeding butterflies Aglais io and Aglais urticae cope successfully with the anthropogenic land-use change. Both species are assumed to be pre-adapted to higher nitrogen contents in their host plant, stinging nettle (Urtica dioica). However, it is currently unknown, whether this pre-adaptation enables both Aglais species to cope successfully or even to benefit from the excessive nitrogen availabilities in nettles growing in modern farmlands. For this reason, this study focused on the response of both Aglais species to unfertilized nettles compared to nettles receiving 150 or 300 kg N ha(-1) yr(-1) (i.e., common fertilizer quantities of modern-day agriculture). Fertilized nettles were characterized by higher nitrogen concentrations and lower C:N ratios compared to the control group. In both Aglais species, the individuals feeding on fertilized nettles had higher survival rates, shorter larval periods and heavier pupae and, in A. urticae also longer forewings. All these trait shifts are beneficial for the individuals, lowering their risk to die before reproduction and increasing their reproductive potential. These responses agree with the well-accepted nitrogen-limitation hypothesis predicting a positive relationship between the nitrogen content of the diet and the performance of herbivorous insects. Furthermore, our findings suggest that the increasing abundance of both Aglais species may result not only from the increasing spread of nettles into the farmland but also from changes in their quality due to the eutrophication of the landscape during recent decades.
ISSN: 1146609X
DOI: 10.1016/j.actao.2017.11.005

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