Tritrophic communities of plants, insect herbivores and associated parasitoid natural enemies together comprise more than 50% of all described species, including both beneficial ecosystem service providers and major economic pests. A key aim in ecology is to understand the processes that form this spectacular diversity and its complex interactions. This project (RoseTriComm) aims to answer two key questions: (a) Do plant traits also influence the diversification and assemblage structure of natural enemies? (b) Do natural enemies exert their own ‘top-down’ effects on herbivore diversification and assemblage structure? Our approach will assess the support for these alternative paradigms using an unparalleled dataset that combines trophic interaction, trait and phylogenomic data for plants (roses, 80 species), herbivores (rose gall wasps, 50 species), and parasitoids (ca. 100 species) from North America and Europe. This innovative research is the first application of the co-phylogeny framework to a large scale tritrophic system, examining the role of traits in structuring interactions in a multicontinental context. Furthermore, RoseTriComm will allow us to develop an analytical framework that can be applied to understanding any tritrophic system’s diversity and assemblage structure. The ability to anticipate the cascading impacts of species gains or losses, is more important than ever when biodiversity is increasingly vulnerable to threats such as climatic change. Finally, RoseTriComm will contribute to train and strengthen the fellow’s research skills in project management and grant writing, expand his network of collaborators, produce high-impact publications, and enable research dissemination via conference communications and public outreach.
Fields of science
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