Discovering how organisms respond to the combinations of stressors they face in their environment is an enduring challenge for ecologists. A particular focus has been how natural enemies and abiotic stressors faced by plants may interact in their effect on the ecology and evolution of plant defense strategies. Here, we report on the results of an experiment measuring how reproduction in the clonal herbaceous plant horsenettle (Solanum carolinense) is affected by damage by leaf-feeding and by flower-feeding herbivores-as well as how horsenettle's tolerance of these different types of herbivory may be altered by nutrient stress. Leaf herbivory by lace bugs reduced horsenettle's seed production and root growth, and the relative impacts were greater in fertilized than in nutrient-stressed plants. In contrast, simulated-floral herbivory reduced seed production to a similar degree in fertilized and nutrient-stressed plants. However, compensation for floral herbivory through increased root growth occurred to a much greater extent in the fertilized than in the nutrient-stressed plants. These results can be explained in terms of the limiting resource model of plant tolerance, with leaf damage interpreted as exacerbating carbon limitation in the fertilized plants and floral damage ameliorating carbon limitation in the fertilized plants. These results can be extended to predicting patterns in the field: Although plants in a nutrient-poor environment may have overall low fitness, they are likely to be more tolerant of leaf herbivores-though this benefit may be countered by lower tolerance of any floral herbivores that share the environment.

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