Influence of Fungal Isolates Infecting Tall Fescue on Multitrophic Interactions
The epichloae are ascomycetous fungi in the genera Epichloe and Neotyphodium that live within grasses. Some of these fungi produce alkaloids that can help protect the host from herbivores. The alkaloids may also travel up the food web and affect members of the third trophic level. In this way they can produce trophic cascades which are rippling effects when a trophic level impacts those above or below it. We briefly summarize the general patterns of multitrophic effects of endophytes and highlight the most recent studies on this topic. Further, we report on our study in which we tested if different fungal strains in tall fescue (cultivar Jesup) affect multitrophic interactions involving aphids and their parasitoid natural enemies. Using both the common strain of N. coenophialum and a novel isolate (AR577), we allowed potted plants to be colonized by aphids and parasitoids in a semi-natural setting. We found that endophyte infection of tall fescue resulted in greater vegetative growth of the plant. We also found that N. coenophialum modified bottom-up cascades by depressing both aphid and parasitoid densities. Finally, we found that multitrophic effects were modified by fungal isolate: the common strain had stronger negative impacts on aphid and parasitoid densities than did the novel isolate. (C) 2011 Elsevier Ltd and The British Mycological Society. All rights reserved.