Response of winter chemical defense in Alaska paper birch and green alder to manipulation of plant carbon/nutrient balance
- Cite this article as:
- Bryant, J.P., Chapin, F.S., Reichardt, P.B. et al. Oecologia (1987) 72: 510. doi:10.1007/BF00378975
Plant carbon/nutrient balance has been implicated as an important factor in plant defensive chemistry and palatability to herbivores. We tested this hypothesis by fertilizing juvenile growth form Alaska paper birch and green alder with N, P and N-plus-P in a balanced 2x2 factorial experiment. Additionally, we shaded unfertilized plants of both species. Fertilization with N and N-plus-P increased growth of Alaska paper birch, reduced the concentration of papyriferic acid in internodes and increased the palatability of birch twigs to snowshoe hares. Shading decreased birch growth, decreased the concentration of papyriferic acid in internodes and increased twig palatability. These results indicate that the defensive chemistry and palatability of winter-dormant juvenile Alaska paper birch are sensitive to soil fertility and shade. Conversely the defensive chemistry and palatability of green alder twigs to snowshoe hares were not significantly affected by soil fertility or shade. The greater sensitivity of Alaska paper birch defensive chemistry and palatability to snowshoe hares in comparison to green alder is in agreement with the hypothesis that early successional woody plants that are adapted to high resource availability are more plastic in their chemical responses to the physical environment than are species from less favorable environments.