Genetic Variation in Aspen Phytochemical Patterns Structures Windows of Opportunity for Gypsy Moth Larvae
Empirical studies indicate that host-tree bud break will likely advance faster than spring-folivore egg hatch in response to predicted increases in temperature. How these phenological shifts will affect herbivory will depend on temporal patterns of foliar traits that occur during leaf expansion, and their effects on folivore performance. Through fine-scale time series sampling of newly flushed trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) foliage, we observed a previously unknown peak in phenolic glycoside concentrations that coincides with the emergence of sensitive neonates of gypsy moths and rapidly declines soon after bud break. The magnitude and duration of the initial post-bud break peak in phenolic glycosides varied substantially among genotypes. In contrast, foliar nitrogen concentrations declined at a more uniform rate among genotypes throughout leaf expansion. In addition, leaf toughness remained uniformly low throughout these periods of phytochemical change, and did not rise or vary substantially among genotypes until after anticipated windows of climate change-induced shifts between bud break and egg hatch had elapsed. Controlled manipulation of intervals between gypsy moth egg hatch and aspen bud break generated differences in larval performance among hatch cohorts and host genotypes that corresponded with changes in foliar phenolic glycoside and nitrogen concentrations. These findings indicate that the effects of climate change-induced phenological shifts on herbivory will differ among host plant genotypes, and that genetic variation in foliar chemical patterns will strongly influence this heterogeneity.
Falk, M. A., R. L. Lindroth, K. Keefover-Ring, and K. F. Raffa. 2018. Genetic variation in aspen phytochemical patterns structures windows of opportunity for gypsy moth larvae. Oecologia 187:471-482.