, Volume 108, Issue 4, pp 723-727

Herbivore-induced resistance in Betula pendula: the role of plant vascular architecture

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We studied the role of plant vascular architecture in the determination of the spatial extent of herbivore induced responses within Betula pendula Roth saplings. The induced responses were measured in bioassays in terms of the relative growth rate of larvae of a geometrid moth, Epirrita autumnata. We hypothesised that the level of induced resistance of a certain leaf would be determined by the degree of vascular connectivity between the leaf in question and a damaged leaf, as suggested by recent theoretical and empirical studies. A comparison of the control plants with the damaged plants indicated that damaging one leaf of a sapling was sufficient to induce an increase in the resistance level. There were also differences among the leaves within a plant in the resistance level, but these differences could not be explained by the degree of vascular connectivity with the damaged leaf. These results suggest that the vascular connections have low power as explanations of the spread and spatial extent of the induced resistance in Betula pendula saplings Instead, the resistance level of all leaves within a sapling increased following the damage. We suggest that the pattern of increased resistance observed in this experiment may be beneficial for the young saplings studied. For young saplings at their early stages of development, it may be beneficial to be able to distribute the induction signal to all leaves as fast as possible and thus repel the herbivore totally. For a young sapling, the capability of repelling the herbivore totally might thus be a feasible strategy whereas an older sapling may tolerate localised damage better and compensate for the damage within the undamaged plant parts.