Timing and mode of simulated ungulate herbivory alter aspen defense strategies
Timing of herbivory or selection of specific plant tissues (mode of herbivory) by different ungulate herbivore species are likely to have important influences on plant defense strategies. In this study, we devised two different modes of simulated herbivory, representing a selective ungulate feeding strategy (defoliation: leaf tissue removal only) and a bulk feeding strategy (clipping: leaves, twigs and meristems taken together). We applied these contrasting herbivory treatments to juvenile aspen suckers (Populus tremuloides Michx.) regenerating underneath aspen stands in early summer (June), late summer (August) or at both times to determine the effects of herbivory mode, timing and frequency on regenerating aspen. In response to the simulated herbivory treatments, we measured traits related to three plant defense strategies: tolerance (aboveground biomass and stem diameter), resistance (foliar phenolic glycosides) and vertical escape (sucker height and average leader length). There was no evidence that mode, timing or frequency of simulated herbivory induced or repressed phenolic glycoside production. Early summer herbivory was more detrimental than late summer herbivory on aspen tolerance and escape. Repeat herbivory in late summer did not amplify the negative effects of early summer herbivory. Clipping and defoliation tended to have similar effects on tolerance but clipping was more detrimental than defoliation on vertical escape. These results suggest that different ungulate herbivore species may have disparate impacts on the plant communities by selecting different tissues of the same plant, or browsing the plant at different times in the growing season.
Call, A., and S. B. St Clair. 2018. Timing and mode of simulated ungulate herbivory alter aspen defense strategies. Tree Physiology 38:1476-1485.