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How do soil nutrients affect within-plant patterns of herbivory in seedlings of Eucalyptus nitens?

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Loney, PE and McArthur, C and Sanson, GD and Davies, NW and Close, DC and Jordan, GJ (2006) How do soil nutrients affect within-plant patterns of herbivory in seedlings of Eucalyptus nitens? Oecologia, 150 (3). pp. 409-420.

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Abstract

This study assessed how the palatability of leaves of different age classes (young, intermediate and older) of Eucalyptus nitens seedlings varied with plant nutrient status, based on captive feeding trials with two mammalian herbivores, Red-bellied Pademelons (Thylogale billardierii), and Common Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). Seedlings were grown under three nutrient treatments (low, medium and high) and we determined how palatability was related to chemical and physical characteristics of the leaves. Pademelons ate more older leaves than young and intermediate leaves for all treatments. This pattern was best explained by sideroxylonals (formylated pholoroglucinol compounds known to deter herbivory by other marsupials), and/or essential oil compounds that were in lower concentrations in older leaves. In the low nutrient treatment, possums also ate more of the older leaves. However, in the medium and high nutrient treatments, possums ate more intermediate leaves than older leaves and showed a behavioural preference for young leaves (consuming younger leaves first) over intermediate and older leaves, in spite of high levels of sideroxylonals and essential oils. The young leaves did, however, have the highest nitrogen concentration of the leaf age classes. Thus, either sideroxylonals and essential oils provided little or no deterrent to possums, or the deterrent was outweighed by other factors such as high nitrogen. This study indicates that mammalian herbivores show different levels of relative use and damage to leaf age classes at varying levels of plant nutrient status and, therefore, their impact on plant fitness may vary with environment.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Eucalyptus, Leaf age, Mammalian herbivores, Ontogeny, Plant secondary compounds
Journal or Publication Title: Oecologia
Page Range: pp. 409-420
Identification Number - DOI: 10.1007/s00442-006-0525-x
Additional Information: The original publication is available at www.springerlink.com
Date Deposited: 03 Sep 2007
Last Modified: 18 Nov 2014 03:21
URI: http://eprints.utas.edu.au/id/eprint/1793
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