Bottom-up effects of soil quality on a coffee arthropod interaction web

D. J. Gonthier, G. M. Dominguez, J. D. Witter, A. L. Spongberg, S. M. Philpott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Nutrient availability and soil quality influence herbivores through changes in plant traits and can have cascading effects on herbivore interactions. In complex systems, with many positive and negative interactions, the consequences of these bottom-up effects are still not well established. We carried out a set of studies to determine the impact of soil quality (organic compost amendments) on a hemipteran herbivore (Coccus viridis), two ant mutualists, predators, pathogens, parasitoids of C. viridis, and an arboreal arthropod community on coffee (Coffea arabica). We also determined the impact of Azteca instabilis ants on the arthropod community with an exclusion experiment. In an observational study, the carbon to nitrogen ratio (C:N) of leaf tissue correlated negatively with C. viridis density, however caffeine content did not correlate with C. viridis. In a field experiment with coffee seedlings, both C. viridis and total arthropod abundance were greater on high-quality plants than on low-quality plants. Excluding A. instabilis resulted in higher C. viridis abundance and parasitism rate, and higher spider and total arthropod abundance. Although A. instabilis attendance of C. viridis only marginally differed across soil quality treatments, in a second experiment, Pheidole synanthropica ants recruited more workers per C. viridis individual on highrelative to low-quality plants. Soil quality treatments did not impact predator abundance or fungal pathogen prevalence. These results suggest soil quality impacts C. viridis herbivores, P. synanthropica ants, and total abundance of arthropods on coffee, but did not impact the third trophic level. Thus this study provides a complex case study of pathways in which bottom-up effects influence arthropod interaction webs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number107
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 10 2013


  • Ant-hemipteran mutualism
  • Azteca
  • Azya
  • Chiapas
  • Coccus
  • Coffea
  • Indirect interactions
  • Mexico
  • Nutrients
  • Pheidole
  • Plant quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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