Weak latitudinal gradients in insect herbivory for dominant rangeland grasses of North America

Dylan R. Kent, Joshua S. Lynn, Steven C. Pennings, Lara A. Souza, Melinda D. Smith, Jennifer A. Rudgers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Patterns of insect herbivory may follow predictable geographical gradients, with greater herbivory at low latitudes. However, biogeographic studies of insect herbivory often do not account for multiple abiotic factors (e.g., precipitation and soil nutrients) that could underlie gradients. We tested for latitudinal clines in insect herbivory as well as climatic, edaphic, and trait-based drivers of herbivory. We quantified herbivory on five dominant grass species over 23 sites across the Great Plains, USA. We examined the importance of climate, edaphic factors, and traits as correlates of herbivory. Herbivory increased at low latitudes when all grass species were analyzed together and for two grass species individually, while two other grasses trended in this direction. Higher precipitation was related to more herbivory for two species but less herbivory for a different species, while higher specific root length was related to more herbivory for one species and less herbivory for a different species. Taken together, results highlight that climate and trait-based correlates of herbivory can be highly contextual and species-specific. Patterns of insect herbivory on dominant grasses support the hypothesis that herbivory increases toward lower latitudes, though weakly, and indicates that climate change may have species-specific effects on plant–herbivore interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6385-6394
Number of pages10
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - 26 May 2020


  • biogeography
  • climate change
  • grass
  • herbivory
  • latitudinal gradient
  • plant-insect interactions
  • rangeland


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