A wide range of organisms attack plants and they have strong impacts on several aspects of plant communities such as primary production, plant community assembly and coexistence, and ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling. While a few studies have shown big impacts of invertebrates and fungal pathogens on plant communities, we know little about how generally important they are, and how their functional composition and impact varies across a range of different ecosystems.
A powerful tool to quantify the variation in plant consumer communities and their impact are globally coordinated experiments, using standardized measurements and replicated experiments across ecological gradients. The "Bug-Network" is such a project and aims to explore the context dependency of biotic interactions within a coordinated research network comprised of many grassland- and shrubland sites worldwide. This is important if we are to understand and predict how global change drivers, such as climate and land use change, will alter our ecosystems in the future.