Plants bite back: The role of plant defences in the demography of mammalian herbivores

18 May 2012

Jane DeGabriel, Conservation Policy Unit, NSW Office of Environment and Heritage

Nutrition underpins the fitness of herbivores, limiting the potential for population growth, yet there remain relatively few examples linking food quality to demography in wild mammal populations. Plant defence compounds reduce the nutritional quality of food available to herbivores, so we might expect that spatial and temporal variation in the distribution of these compounds should have a strong effect on individual life histories. I will present examples from two contrasting herbivore systems to demonstrate the effects of variation in plant defence on the mammal demography: common brushtail possums feeding on eucalypts containing tannins in northern Australia, and field voles feeding on silica-rich grasses in northern England. I will also discuss the predicted effects of climate change on leaf chemistry and the implications for herbivore populations.

Time: 4-5pm

Location: DT Anderson Lecture Theatre, A08