DOI: 10.1007/s10144-010-0210-0

The resource regulation hypothesis and positive feedback loops in plant–herbivore interactions

1. Department of Biology, University of Minnesota Duluth

Correspondence to:
Timothy Craig



Resource regulation occurs when herbivory maintains or increases plant susceptibility to further herbivory by the same species. A review of the literature indicates it is a widespread plant–animal interaction involving a diverse array of herbivores. At least three mechanisms can produce this positive feedback cycle. First, phytophagous insect and mammalian herbivore damage can stimulate dormant buds to produce vigorous juvenile growth, which is preferred for further attack. Juvenilization cycles may have repeatedly evolved because herbivores are able to take advantage of a generalized plant compensatory response to any type of damage. Second, herbivores can manipulate plant source–sink relationships to attain more resources, and this alteration of plant growth may benefit subsequent herbivore generations. Third, herbivory can alter plant nutrition or defensive chemistry in a way that makes a plant susceptible to more herbivory. Resource regulation probably occurs because damage to resources preferred by the herbivores induces a generalized plant response that produces more preferred resources. Alternatively, manipulation of plant resources to induce resource regulation may have evolved in herbivores with a high degree of philopatry due to selection to alter plant resources to benefit their offspring. Resource regulation can stabilize insect population dynamics by maintaining a supply of high-quality plant resources. It can also increase the heterogeneity of host-plant resources for herbivores by altering the physiological age structure and the distribution of resources within plants. Resource regulation may have strong plant-mediated effects on other organisms that use that host plant, but these effects have not yet been explored.

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