New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2014) 38(1): 39- 44

When belowground rumbles: a plant’s interactions with antagonists are robust to earthquake-induced shifts in the below-ground environment

Research Article
Roseanna Gamlen-Greene 1
John Clemens 2
Justin Morgenroth 3
Marcus Lechner 1,4
William Godsoe 1*
  1. Biological Sciences, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
  2. Christchurch Botanic Gardens, Christchurch City Council, PO Box 73036, Christchurch 8154, New Zealand
  3. School of Forestry, University of Canterbury, Private Bag 4800, Christchurch 8140, New Zealand
  4. Department of Pharmaceutical Chemistry, University of Marburg, Marbacher Weg 6, 35037 Marburg, Germany
*  Corresponding author

A major paradigm in plant ecology is the recognition of the profound consequences of the below-ground environment on the interactions between plants and other species above ground. It has recently been suggested that this perspective should be incorporated into plans to restore disturbed habitats. However, these efforts are undermined by our lack of knowledge on the consequences of naturally occurring below-ground disturbance. The 6.2 moment magnitude earthquake that struck near Christchurch, New Zealand, on 22 February 2011 provides a rare test case to identify the effects of profound below-ground disturbance on above-ground interactions. We study these effects by quantifying interactions between the weedy perennial Malva sylvestris and its above-ground antagonists. We show that across two spatial scales, the presence of earthquake-induced soil disturbance (liquefaction) has no significant effect on the abundance of antagonists on M. sylvestris. Our results demonstrate resilience of some above-ground interactions to profound, natural below-ground disturbance. This result is important both for understanding the limits of the above-ground – below-ground linkages paradigm and to help remediate the consequences of profound below-ground disturbances.