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Parasitism modifies the direct effects of warming on a hemiparasite and its host.

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Climate change is affecting interactions among species, including host-parasite interactions. The effects of warming are of particular interest for interactions in which parasite and host physiology are intertwined, such as those between parasitic plants and their hosts. However, little is known about how warming will affect plant parasitic interactions, hindering our ability to predict how host and parasite species will respond to climate change. Here, we test how warming affects aboveground and belowground biomass of a hemiparasitic species (Castilleja sulphurea) and its host (Bouteloua gracilis), asking whether the effects of warming depend on the interaction between these species. We also measured how warming affected the number of haustorial connections between parasite and host. We grew each species alone and together under ambient and warmed conditions. Hosts produced more belowground biomass under warming. However, host biomass was reduced when plants were grown with a hemiparasite. Thus, parasitism negated the benefit of warming on belowground growth of the host. Host resource allocation to roots versus shoots also changed in response to both interaction with the parasite and warming, with hosts producing more root biomass relative to shoot biomass when grown with a parasite and when warmed. As expected, hemiparasite biomass was greater when grown with a host. Warmed parasites had lower root:shoot ratios but only when grown with a host. Under elevated temperatures, hemiparasite aboveground biomass was marginally greater, and plants produced significantly more haustoria. These findings indicate that warming can influence biomass production, both by modifying the interaction between host plants and hemiparasites and by affecting the growth of each species directly. To predict how species will be affected, it is important to understand not only the direct effects of warming but also the indirect effects that are mediated by species interactions. Ultimately, understanding how climate change will affect species interactions is key to understanding how it will affect individual species.

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