Conservation of Coevolved Insect Herbivores and Plants

Carol L. Boggs and Paul R. Ehrlich

in Specialization, Speciation, and Radiation

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2008 | ISBN: 9780520251328
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520933828 | DOI:
Conservation of Coevolved Insect Herbivores and Plants

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One cannot consider the conservation of plants without thinking about their relationship with the creatures that eat them; and herbivorous insects have long been among the worst enemies of the global flora. It is no accident that the entire field of coevolution sprung from a study of the reciprocal evolutionary interaction of butterfly caterpillars and their photosynthesizing victims. Changes in disturbance regimes due either directly to human activities or indirectly to introductions as previously noted can threaten host plants, their coevolved herbivorous insects, and the evolutionary dynamic between them. This chapter examines each of the sources of conservation threat, both to coevolved populations of plants and their insect herbivores, and to the coevolutionary dynamics themselves. It provides a conceptual overview of current knowledge of the conservation problems associated with coevolved plant–insect interactions. The chapter discusses habitat destruction, the role of host range in the conservation of insects, spatial ecology, species introductions, changes in disturbance regimes, and climate change and its implications for the conservation of plant–insect herbivore systems.

Keywords: conservation; coevolution; insect herbivores; plants; habitat destruction; disturbance regimes; plant–insect interactions; climate change; species introductions

Chapter.  7280 words. 

Subjects: Evolutionary Biology

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