Generalising indirect defence and resistance of plants

Ian S. Pearse, Eric LoPresti, Robert N. Schaeffer, William C. Wetzel, Kailen A. Mooney, Jared G. Ali, Paul J. Ode, Micky D. Eubanks, Judith L. Bronstein, Marjorie G. Weber

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Indirect defence, the adaptive top-down control of herbivores by plant traits that enhance predation, is a central component of plant–herbivore interactions. However, the scope of interactions that comprise indirect defence and associated ecological and evolutionary processes has not been clearly defined. We argue that the range of plant traits that mediate indirect defence is much greater than previously thought, and we further organise major concepts surrounding their ecological functioning. Despite the wide range of plant traits and interacting organisms involved, indirect defences show commonalities when grouped. These categories are based on whether indirect defences boost natural enemy abundance via food or shelter resources, or, alternatively, increase natural enemy foraging efficiency via information or alteration of habitat complexity. The benefits of indirect defences to natural enemies should be further explored to establish the conditions in which indirect defence generates a plant–natural enemy mutualism. By considering the broader scope of plant–herbivore–natural enemy interactions that comprise indirect defence, we can better understand plant-based food webs, as well as the evolutionary processes that have shaped them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1137-1152
Number of pages16
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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