Common garden experiments
Plants are fundamental providers of food resources and habitat for higher trophic level organisms. The role of plants strongly depends on phenotypic plant traits, which may show considerable variation between species but also within species (intraspecific variation). Plant phenotypic traits depend on the plants’ genotype and on the specific abiotic and biotic environment to which plant populations and individuals are exposed. It is assumed that intraspecific variation in plant traits occurs between populations (inter-population variation) and within populations (intra-population variation). As plant traits are fundamentally affecting individual plant use by higher trophic levels, variation in plant traits is assumedly also influencing the variation of interactions between plants, herbivores and carnivores.

We study the extent of intra- and inter-population variation in plant traits and its consequences for interactions across trophic levels in “common garden” experiments, where plants from different populations are exposed to a common environment. We currently focus on plant traits and interactions with higher trophic levels for beech (Fagus sylvatica), brown knapweed (Centaurea jacea), touch-me-not (Impatiens noli-tangere, I. glandulifera and I. parviflora), and apple (Malus domestica and M. sylvestris).

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