Ecological and Evolutionary Consequences of Herbivory in the Perennial Herb Lythrum salicaria

Sammanfattning: In this thesis, I combined field, common-garden and greenhouse experiments to examine the ecological and evolutionary consequences of plant-herbivore interactions in the perennial herb Lythrum salicaria. More specifically I examined (1) whether resistance and tolerance to damage from herbivores vary with latitude and are positively related to the intensity of herbivory in natural populations, (2) whether effects of herbivory on plant fitness vary with latitude, (3) whether populations are locally adapted and whether herbivory influences the relative fitness of populations, and (4) whether the intensity and effects of insect herbivory on reproductive output vary locally along a disturbance gradient and are associated with differences in plant resistance.A common-garden and a greenhouse experiment demonstrated that plant resistance decreased whereas plant tolerance increased with latitude of origin among populations sampled along a latitudinal gradient in Sweden. Oviposition and feeding preference in the greenhouse and leaf damage in the common-garden experiment were negatively related to natural damage in the source populations.Experimental removal of insect herbivores in three populations sampled along the latitudinal gradient demonstrated that intensity of herbivory and its effects on plant fitness decreased towards the north. A reciprocal transplant experiment among the same three populations showed that herbivory affected the relative fitness of the three populations, but did not detect any evidence of local adaptation. Instead the southernmost population had the highest relative fitness at all three sites.A herbivore-removal experiment conducted in nine populations in an archipelago in northern Sweden demonstrated that insect herbivory strongly influenced among-population variation in reproductive output. However, variation in resistance was not related to differences in intensity of herbivory at this spatial scale.Taken together, the results demonstrate that resistance and tolerance to herbivory vary with latitude but in opposite directions, that intensity of herbivory is a major determinant of flowering and seed output, and that the strength of herbivore-mediated selection varies among populations in Lythrum salicaria. They further indicate that both physical disturbance regime and latitudinal variation in abiotic conditions may strongly influence the performance and abundance of perennial herbs because of their effects on interactions with specialized herbivores.