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Prevalence and predictability of handling effects on plants in field studies: Results from field experiments and a meta-analysis Open Access
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Various effects on plant growth associated with handling or touching plants are well documented from greenhouse and laboratory studies, but are generally unknown or ignored under field conditions. We examined the prevalence of the effects of handling, at levels typical of many ecological experiments, on aboveground biomass and damage by invertebrate herbivores for a total of 16 common species from three plant communities in western Canada. Significant effects of handling were observed in the alpine meadow and grassland, but not in the boreal forest. Handling reduced aboveground biomass and increased the mean intensity of invertebrate leaf damage for most species. A meta-analysis of the relationship between plant traits and response to handling indicated that woody plants and species without strong chemical or conspicuous morphological defenses were most strongly affected. Overall, our results indicate that potentially confounding effects of routinely sampling plants in the field are widespread and merit further investigation.
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Hik, D.S, Brown, M., Dabros, A., Weir, J. and Cahill,J.F. Jr. "Prevalence and predictability of handling effects on plants in field studies: Results from field experiments and a meta-analysis ." American Journal of Botany 90 (2003): 270-277. DOI: 10.3732/ajb.90.2.270
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