June beetle larvae
Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Abstract The importance of disturbance intensity and herbivory by cattle and white grubs, or the larvae of June beetles (including Phyllophaga fimbripes), to recovery of shortgrass steppe ecosystems in Colorado, U.S.A. were evaluated over a fourteen year time period. Disturbance intensity was defined by survival of the dominant grass species (Bouteloua gracilis) after an outbreak of root feeding activity by white grubs. Sixteen patches of vegetation consisting of four pairs of adjacent ungrazed-grazed by cattle locations with two replicates that were recently affected by white grubs were selected in 1977. Disturbance intensity was determined in 1977 by the area in each patch that contained live tillers of B. gracilis. Permanent plots were located both within and outside of each patch. Plant basal cover and density by species were estimated at time of peak aboveground biomass in six different years on each plot. Successional dynamics on patches was similar to areas affected by other types of disturbances, however, rate of recovery was faster for patches affected by grubs. Grazing by cattle was infrequently important to plant recovery, a result similar to effects of grazing on other aspects of shortgrass steppe ecosystems. Disturbance intensity was important to recovery of B. gracilis since tiller survival in 1977 was linearly related to cover in each year of sampling. For ungrazed patches, initial conditions were important to recovery of B. gracilis for as many as 14 years. For grazed patches, initial conditions decreased and grazing increased in importance through time. Changes in resource quality and a more uniform distribution of roots due to grazing likely resulted in more complete mortality of plants by grubs under grazed compared to ungrazed conditions. Persistence of shortgrass ecosystems in spite of disturbances with different intensities are determined at least in part by characteristics of disturbances interacting with the ability of plants to respond, and in part by the evolutionary history of the system. Although white grubs affect shortgrass communities infrequently, they have large and important effects on plant community structure through time, and represent an important class of disturbance defined by intensity.
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