"Determining the effects of plant-herbivore interactions on invasive species throughout climate change"

Kileigh Welshofer
Michigan State University Department of Forestry
Kileigh Welshofer is currently working toward her Master’s degree in Forestry with a certificate in Ecology, Evolutionary Biology, and Behavior. Her current research evaluates the effects of climate change on invasive plant species in wooded and old-agricultural field systems throughout Michigan. Originally from the southeast, Welshofer earned dual Bachelor’s degrees in Ecology and Statistics at Elon University where she gained experience working in a diversity of systems including old-growth beech gaps of Great Smoky Mountains National Park, mixed pine/hardwood forests, and coastal marshes. Upon graduation, Welshofer hopes to continue with ecological conservation efforts through land management and planning. Welshofer leads Michigan State’s chapter for the Society for Conservation Biology as chapter president and plans to graduate December 2016.
Other presenters/researchers: 
Dr. Nina Lany, Michigan State University Department of Forestry; Dr. Phoebe Zarnetske, Michigan State University Department of Forestry

Invasive plants greatly threaten the integrity of ecosystems, yet their future response to ongoing climate change is uncertain. Invasive species’ broad environmental tolerances suggest warming may favor their success, especially if warming increases herbivore pressure and herbivores prefer native over invasive plant species. We constructed passive open top chambers to simulate an increase in temperature (+1-3ºC) in herbaceous plant communities in Michigan, USA. Warmed and ambient plots were manipulated to exclude or allow herbivores and the percent of leaf eaten was recorded. Utilizing the non-parametric Mann-Whitney U-Test, initial results indicate that insect herbivores significantly preferred native to exotic plant species, regardless of warming (p<0.01), but that warming did not affect levels of herbivory on either native or invasive plants (p=0.73). Uncovering long-term trends in plant-herbivore interactions under novel abiotic pressures will allow us to better plan and manage the future of invasive species control throughout a changing climate.

Poster Division: 
Poster File: