Plant Biol (Stuttg) 2005; 7(5): 549-556
DOI: 10.1055/s-2005-865831
Research Paper

Georg Thieme Verlag Stuttgart KG · New York

Herbivory and Abiotic Factors Affect Population Dynamics of Arabidopsis thaliana in a Sand Dune Area

A. Mosleh Arany1 , T. J. de Jong1 , E. van der Meijden1
  • 1Institute of Biology, University of Leiden, P.O. Box 9516, 2300 RA Leiden, The Netherlands
Further Information

Publication History

Received: February 2, 2005

Accepted: June 1, 2005

Publication Date:
15 September 2005 (online)


Population dynamics of the annual plant Arabidopsis thaliana (L.) Heynh. were studied in a natural habitat of this species on the coastal dunes of the Netherlands. The main objective was to elucidate factors controlling population dynamics and the relative importance of factors affecting final population density. Permanent plots were established and plants were mapped to obtain data on survival and reproductive performance of each individual, with special attention to herbivore damage. In experimental plots we studied how watering, addition of nutrients, artificial disturbance, and natural herbivores affected survival and growth. Mortality was low during autumn and early winter and high at the time of stem elongation, between February and April. A key factor analysis showed a high correlation between mortality from February to April and total mortality. The specialist weevils Ceutorhyncus atomus and C. contractus (Curculionidae) were identified as the major insect herbivores on A. thaliana, reducing seed production by more than 40 %. These herbivores acted in a plant size-dependent manner, attacking a greater fraction of the fruits on large plants. While mortality rates were not affected by density, fecundity decreased with density, although the effect was small. Adding water reduced mortality in rosette and flowering plant stages. Soil disturbance did not increase seed germination, but did have a significant positive effect on survival of rosette and flowering plants. Seed production of A. thaliana populations varied greatly between years, leading to population fluctuations, with a small role for density-dependent fecundity and plant size-dependent herbivory.


A. Mosleh Arany

Institute of Biology
University of Leiden

P.O. Box 9516

2300 RA Leiden

The Netherlands


Editor: W. H. van der Putten