Aspen Bibliography


Root Secondary Metabolites in Populus tremuloides: Effects of Simulated Climate Warming, Defoliation, and Genotype

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Journal of Chemical Ecology




Springer New York LLC

Publication Date



Climate warming can influence interactions between plants and associated organisms by altering levels of plant secondary metabolites. In contrast to studies of elevated temperature on aboveground phytochemistry, the consequences of warming on root chemistry have received little attention. Herein, we investigated the effects of elevated temperature, defoliation, and genotype on root biomass and phenolic compounds in trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides). We grew saplings of three aspen genotypes under ambient or elevated temperatures (+4–6 °C), and defoliated (by 75%) half of the trees in each treatment. After 4 months, we harvested roots and determined their condensed tannin and salicinoid (phenolic glycoside) concentrations. Defoliation reduced root biomass, with a slightly larger impact under elevated, relative to ambient, temperature. Elevated temperature decreased condensed tannin concentrations by 21–43% across the various treatment combinations. Warming alone did not alter salicinoid concentrations but eliminated a small negative impact of defoliation on those compounds. Graphical vector analysis suggests that effects of warming and defoliation on condensed tannins and salicinoids were predominantly due to reduced biosynthesis of these metabolites in roots, rather than to changes in root biomass. In general, genotypes did not differ in their responses to temperature or temperature by defoliation interactions. Collectively, our results suggest that future climate warming will alter root phytochemistry, and that effects will vary among different classes of secondary metabolites and be influenced by concurrent ecological interactions such as herbivory. Temperature- and herbivory-mediated changes in root chemistry have the potential to influence belowground trophic interactions and soil nutrient dynamics.