Root herbivores, pathogenic fungi, and competition between Centaurea maculosa and Festuca idahoensis

Wendy L. Ridenour, Ragan M. Callaway

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32 Scopus citations


We used a common garden experiment to evaluate the isolated and combined effects of a biocontrol agent, the insect (Agapeta zoegana, Lepidoptera), and a native North American fungal pathogen (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) on competition between the noxious weed Centaurea maculosa and the native Festuca idahoensis. In 0.5-m2 plots with 24 plants per plot, competition between Centaurea and Festuca was highly asymmetrical, with Centaurea strongly reducing the final biomass and reproduction of Festuca, and Festuca having no effect, or possibly a positive effect, on Centaurea. The direct effects of the biological control agents differed entirely. All Centaurea individuals died in plots receiving Sclerotinia, but Agapeta did not significantly reduce the growth of Centaurea, and apparently stimulated a compensatory reproductive response in the weed. Individual Centaurea plants that had been damaged by Agapeta produced more flowerheads, and the number of Centaurea plants with Agapeta root damage in a plot was positively correlated with total Centaurea biomass. These differences in the direct effects of the consumers were reflected in their indirect effects. In plots where Sclerotinia killed Centaurea (strong direct effects) Festuca growth and reproduction was equal to that in Festuca plots without Centaurea and the reproductive output of Festuca increased substantially (strong indirect effects). However, in the absence of Sclerotinia, the application of Agapeta did not significantly decrease Centaurea biomass (weak direct effects) and actually stimulated small, but significant decreases in Festuca reproduction and trends towards lower Festuca biomass (weak and opposite indirect effects - Agapeta does not eat Festuca). If the direct effects of biocontrol agents on Centaurea are weak, as suggested by our results, natives are unlikely to be released from the competitive effects of Centaurea, and natives may suffer from Centaurea's compensatory response to herbivory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)161-170
Number of pages10
JournalPlant Ecology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003


  • Agapeta zoegana
  • Allelopathy
  • Biological control
  • Centaurea maculosa
  • Compensatory growth
  • Competition
  • Festuca idahoensis
  • Indirect interactions
  • Interference
  • Sclerotinia sclerotiorum


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