Reserves Accumulated in Non-Photosynthetic Organs during the Previous Growing Season Drive Plant Defenses and Growth in Aspen in the Subsequent Growing Season
Journal of chemical ecology
Plants store non-structural carbohydrates (NSC), nitrogen (N), as well as other macro and micronutrients, in their stems and roots; the role of these stored reserves in plant growth and defense under herbivory pressure is poorly understood, particularly in trees. Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) seedlings with different NSC and N reserves accumulated during the previous growing season were generated in the greenhouse. Based on NSC and N contents, seedlings were assigned to one of three reserve statuses: Low N–Low NSC, High N–Medium NSC, or High N–High NSC. In the subsequent growing season, half of the seedlings in each reserve status was subjected to defoliation by forest tent caterpillar (Malacosoma disstria) while the other half was left untreated. Following defoliation, the effect of reserves was measured on foliar chemistry (N, NSC) and caterpillar performance (larval development). Due to their importance in herbivore feeding, we also quantified concentrations of phenolic glycoside compounds in foliage. Seedlings in Low N-Low NSC reserve status contained higher amounts of induced phenolic glycosides, grew little, and supported fewer caterpillars. In contrast, aspen seedlings in High N-Medium or High NSC reserve statuses contained lower amounts of induced phenolic glycosides, grew faster, and some of the caterpillars which fed on these seedlings developed up to their fourth instar. Furthermore, multiple regression analysis indicated that foliar phenolic glycoside concentration was related to reserve chemistry (NSC, N). Overall, these results demonstrate that reserves accumulated during the previous growing season can influence tree defense and growth in the subsequent growing season. Additionally, our study concluded that the NSC/N ratio of reserves in the previous growing season represents a better measure of resources available for use in defense and growth than the foliar NSC/N ratios.
Najar, A., S.M. Landhäusser, J.G. Whitehill, P. Bonello, and N. Erbilgin. 2014. Reserves Accumulated in NonPhotosynthetic Organs during the Previous Growing Season Drive Plant Defenses and Growth in Aspen in the Subsequent Growing Season. Journal of chemical ecology 40:21-30.