, Volume 139, Issue 1, pp 55-65
Date: 23 Jan 2004

Long-term effects of defoliation on quaking aspen in relation to genotype and nutrient availability: plant growth, phytochemistry and insect performance

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Abstract

This research tested the long-term effects of defoliation on aspen chemistry and growth in relation to genotype and nutrient availability. We grew saplings of four aspen genotypes in a common garden under two conditions of nutrient availability, and subsequently subjected them to two levels of artificial defoliation. Artificial defoliation suppressed plant growth, and saplings of the four genotypes did not show evidence of genetic variation in tolerance to defoliation. Phenolic glycoside concentrations did not respond to defoliation, but were influenced by genotype and nutrient availability. Condensed tannins responded to defoliation and varied among genotypes. Although defoliation affected condensed tannins, plant quality was not altered in a manner important for gypsy moth performance. Regression analyses suggested that phenolic glycoside concentrations accounted for most of the variation in insect performance. The lack of a strong response important for herbivores was surprising given the severity of the defoliation treatment (nearly 100% of leaf area was removed). In this study, plant genotype was of primary importance, nutrient availability was of secondary importance and long-term induced responses were unimportant as determinants of insect performance.