Below ground interactions and their impact on plant performance are typically poorly understood. Most studies on aboveground/belowground interactions have been carried out in highly controlled environments, and so little is known about this relationship under field conditions. This study will investigate these relationships in a natural setting using the noxious weed Canada thistle, Cirsium arvense. An investigation of above- and belowground herbivores of an invasive species will provide a comprehensive investigation of the factors driving the success of an invader. Most studies and biological control efforts focus on rates of aboveground herbivory, consequently entirely ignoring the belowground community. I will be able to directly compare the relative importance of above- and belowground interactions on plant success, thus quantifying an often overlooked aspect of the ecology of this system.
Principal Investigator: Peter Kotanen