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The acceptability of meadow plants to the slug Deroceras reticulatum and implications for grassland restoration

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Sarah BarlowORCiD, Dr Andrew Close, Dr Gordon Port


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Background and Aims Despite the selective pressure slugs may exert on seedling recruitment there is a lack of information in this context within grassland restoration studies. Selective grazing is influenced by interspecific differences in acceptability. As part of a larger study of how slug–seedling interactions may influence upland hay meadow restoration, an assessment of relative acceptability is made for seedlings of meadow plants to the slug, Deroceras reticulatum.Methods Slug feeding damage to seedling monocultures of 23 meadow species and Brassica napus was assessed in microcosms over 14 d. The severity and rate of damage incurred by each plant species was analysed with a generalized additive mixed model. Plant species were then ranked for their relative acceptability.Key Results Interspecific variation in relative acceptability suggested seedlings of meadow species form a hierarchy of acceptability to D. reticulatum. The four most acceptable species were Achillea millefolium and the grasses Holcus lanatus, Poa trivialis and Festuca rubra. Trifolium pratense was acceptable to D. reticulatum and was the second highest ranking forb species. The most unacceptable species were mainly forbs associated with the target grassland, and included Geranium sylvaticum, Rumex acetosa, Leontodon hispidus and the grass Anthoxanthum odoratum. A strong positive correlation was found for mean cumulative feeding damage and cumulative seedling mortality at day 14.Conclusions Highly unacceptable species to D. reticulatum are unlikely to be selectively grazed by slugs during the seedling recruitment phase, and were predominantly target restoration species. Seedlings of highly acceptable species may be less likely to survive slug herbivory and contribute to seedling recruitment at restoration sites. Selective slug herbivory, influenced by acceptability, may influence community-level processes if seedling recruitment and establishment of key functional species, such as T. pratense is reduced.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Barlow SE, Close AJ, Port GR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Annals of Botany

Year: 2013

Volume: 112

Issue: 4

Pages: 721-730

Print publication date: 30/04/2013

ISSN (print): 0305-7364

ISSN (electronic): 1095-8290

Publisher: Oxford University Press


DOI: 10.1093/aob/mct086


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