Climate change alters slug abundance but not herbivory in a temperate grassland

Daniel Weber, Rebecca K. McGrail, A. Elizabeth Carlisle, James D. Harwood, Rebecca L. McCulley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate change will significantly impact the world’s ecosystems, in part by altering species interactions and ecological processes, such as herbivory and plant community dynamics, which may impact forage quality and ecosystem production. Yet relatively few field experimental manipulations assessing all of these parameters have been performed to date. To help fill this knowledge gap, we evaluated the effects of increased temperature (+3C day and night, year-round) and precipitation (+30% of mean annual rainfall) on slug herbivory and abundance and plant community dynamics biweekly in a pasture located in central Kentucky, U.S.A. Warming increased slug abundance once during the winter, likely due to improving conditions for foraging, whereas warming reduced slug abundance at times in late spring, mid-summer, and early fall (from 62–95% reduction depending on month). We found that warming and increased precipitation did not significantly modify slug herbivory at our site, despite altering slug abundance and affecting plant community composition and forage quality. Climate change will alter seasonal patterns of slug abundance through both direct effects on slug biology and indirect effects mediated by changes in the plant community, suggesting that pasture management practices may have to adapt.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0283128
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3 March
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
Copyright: © 2023 Weber et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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