The joint effects of multiple herbivores on their shared host plant have received increasing interest recently. The influence of herbivores on population dynamics of their host plants, especially the relative roles of different types of damage, is, however, still poorly understood. Here, we present a modelling approach, including both deterministic and stochastic matrix modelling, to be used in estimating fitness effects of multiple herbivores on perennial plants. We examined the effects and relative roles of two specialist herbivores, a pre-dispersal seed predator, Euphranta connexa, and a Leaf-feeding moth, Abrostola asclepiadis, on the population dynamics and long-term fitness of their shared host plant, a Long-lived perennial herb Vincetoxicum hirundinaria (Asclepiadaceae). We collected demographic data during 3 years and combined these data with the effects of natural levels of herbivory measured from the same individuals. We found that both seed predation and leaf herbivory reduced population growth of V. hirundinaria, but only very high damage levels changed the growth trend of the vigorously growing study populations from positive to negative. Demographic modelling indicated that seed predation had a greater impact on plant population growth than leaf herbivory. The effect of leaf herbivory was weaker and diminished with increasing level of seed predation. Evaluation of individual fitness components, however, suggested that leaf herbivory contributed more strongly to host plant fitness than seed predation. Our results emphasize that understanding the effects of a particular herbivore on plant population dynamics requires also knowledge on other herbivores present in the system, because the effect of a particular type of herbivory on plant population dynamics is likely to vary according to the intensity of other types of herbivory. Furthermore, evaluating herbivore impact from using individual fitness components does not necessarily reflect the long-term effects on total plant fitness.
2006. Vol. 7, no 3, 224-235 p.