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Changes in oak (Quercus robur) photosynthesis after winter moth (Operophtera brumata) herbivory are not explained by changes in chemical or structural leaf traits

Visakorpi, K., Riutta, T., Malhi, Y., Salminen, J.-P., Salinas, N. and Gripenberg, S. (2020) Changes in oak (Quercus robur) photosynthesis after winter moth (Operophtera brumata) herbivory are not explained by changes in chemical or structural leaf traits. PLoS ONE, 15 (1). e0228157. ISSN 1932-6203

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0228157

Abstract/Summary

Insect herbivores have the potential to change both physical and chemical traits of their host plant. Although the impacts of herbivores on their hosts have been widely studied, experiments assessing changes in multiple leaf traits or functions simultaneously are still rare. We experimentally tested whether herbivory by winter moth (Operophtera brumata) caterpillars and mechanical leaf wounding changed leaf mass per area, leaf area, leaf carbon and nitrogen content, and the concentrations of 27 polyphenol compounds on oak (Quercus robur) leaves. To investigate how potential changes in the studied traits affect leaf functioning, we related the traits to the rates of leaf photosynthesis and respiration. Overall, we did not detect any clear effects of herbivory or mechanical leaf damage on the chemical or physical leaf traits, despite clear effect of herbivory on photosynthesis. Rather, the trait variation was primarily driven by variation between individual trees. Only leaf nitrogen content and a subset of the studied polyphenol compounds correlated with photosynthesis and leaf respiration. Our results suggest that in our study system, abiotic conditions related to the growth location, variation between tree individuals, and seasonal trends in plant physiology are more important than herbivory in determining the distribution and composition of leaf chemical and structural traits.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:88594
Publisher:Public Library of Science

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