We examined the interactions among insectivorous birds, arthropods and white oak saplings (Quercus alba L.) in a temperate deciduous forest under 'open' and 'closed' canopy environments. For 2 y, we compared arthropod densities, leaf damage and sapling growth. Saplings from each canopy environment were assigned to one of four treatments: (1) reference, (2) bird exclosure, (3) insecticide and (4) exclosure + insecticide. Sap-feeding insects were the most abundant arthropod feeding guild encountered and birds reduced sap-feeder densities in 1997, but not in 1998. Although there was no detectable influence of birds on leaf-chewer densities in either year, leaf damage to saplings was greater within bird exclosures than outside of bird exclosures in 1997. Insecticide significantly reduced arthropod densities and leaf damage to saplings, but there was no corresponding increase in sapling growth. Growth and biomass were greater for saplings in more open canopy environments for both years. Sap-feeder densities were higher on closed canopy than open canopy saplings in 1997, but canopy environment did not influence the effects of birds on lower trophic levels. Although previous studies have found birds to indirectly influence plant growth and biomass, birds did not significantly influence the growth or biomass of white oak saplings during our study.
Additional publication details
Weak trophic interactions among birds, insects and white oak saplings (Quercus alba)