A test of concordance in community structure between leafhoppers and grasslands in the central Tien Shan Mountains

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Leafhoppers and related Auchenorrhynchous Hemiptera (AH) are among the most diverse grassland herbivores, and many have been linked inexorably to grassland vegetation through diet and shelter for millions of years. Are AH–plant communities in natural grasslands tightly integrated, how does the interaction differ across major ecological gradients, and do habitat or environmental factors explain the most variance in AH community structure? These questions have implications for the conservation of biodiversity and in evaluating effects of a warming climate. Using grasslands of the central Tien Shan Mountains as a natural laboratory, we examine whether AH species assemblages are concordant with vegetation in terms of community structure using closely associated species-level samples. Data were recorded from a nearly 3000-m elevation gradient crossing four arid and three montane grassland vegetation classes. We found elements of AH–plant community classification and structure to be closely correlated except for at the arid–montane habitat transition where a small group of widespread AH species were significant indicators for vegetation classes in both major grassland types. AH species richness and abundance are positively correlated with plant species density and percent cover and, correspondingly, peak at mid-elevations in association with montane grasslands. While overall elevation (and covariate mean annual temperature) explains the most variance in AH species assemblages, the sum total of habitat factors explain more variance than environmental factors when arid and montane grasslands were examined separately, but environmental factors are co-equal with habitat factors when the grassland types are combined. Unexplained variance in the AH community assemblages, attributable to individualistic species responses to environmental and habitat factors, slightly exceeds the total accounted for by the model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)843-859
Number of pages17
JournalArthropod-Plant Interactions
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Auchenorrhyncha
  • Central Asia
  • Plant–insect interactions
  • Species density
  • Steppe

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Insect Science


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