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Tree diversity and functional leaf traits drive herbivore-associated microbiomes in subtropical China
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  • Yi Li,
  • Douglas Chesters,
  • Ming-Qiang Wang,
  • Tesfaye Wubet,
  • Andreas Schuldt,
  • Perttu Anttonen,
  • Peng-Fei Guo,
  • Jingting Chen,
  • Qing-Song Zhou,
  • Naili Zhang,
  • Keping Ma,
  • Helge Bruelheide,
  • Chun-sheng Wu,
  • Chao-Dong Zhu
Yi Li
Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Douglas Chesters
Institute of Zoology
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Ming-Qiang Wang
Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Tesfaye Wubet
Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research
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Andreas Schuldt
University of Göttingen
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Perttu Anttonen
Institute of Biology/Geobotany and Botanical Garden
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Peng-Fei Guo
Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Jingting Chen
Institute of Zoology Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Qing-Song Zhou
Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Naili Zhang
Beijing Forestry University
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Keping Ma
Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Helge Bruelheide
University of Halle- Wittenberg
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Chun-sheng Wu
Institute of Zoology
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Chao-Dong Zhu
Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Abstract

Herbivore insects acquire microorganisms from host plants or soil, but it remains unclear how the diversity and functional composition of host plants contribute to structuring herbivore microbiomes. Within a controlled tree-diversity setting, we used DNA metabarcoding of 16S rRNA to assess the contribution of Lepidoptera species and their local environment (particularly, tree diversity, host tree species, and leaf traits) to the composition of associated bacterial communities. In total, we obtained 7,909 bacterial OTUs from 634 caterpillar individuals comprising 146 species. Tree diversity was found to drive the diversity of caterpillar-associated bacteria both directly, and indirectly via effects on caterpillar communities, and tree diversity was a stronger predictor of bacterial diversity than diversity of caterpillars. Leaf toughness and dry matter content were important traits of the host plant determining bacterial species composition, while leaf calcium and potassium concentration influenced bacterial richness. Our study reveals previously unknown linkages between trees and their characteristics, herbivore insects, and their associated microbes, which contributes to developing a more nuanced understanding of functional dependencies between herbivores and their environment, and has implications for the consequences of plant diversity loss for trophic interactions.

Peer review status:Published

31 Mar 2021Published in Ecology and Evolution. 10.1002/ece3.7434