, Volume 157, Issue 2, pp 259-267

Impact of epidermal leaf mining by the aspen leaf miner (Phyllocnistis populiella) on the growth, physiology, and leaf longevity of quaking aspen

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The aspen leaf miner, Phyllocnistis populiella, feeds on the contents of epidermal cells on both top (adaxial) and bottom (abaxial) surfaces of quaking aspen leaves, leaving the photosynthetic tissue of the mesophyll intact. This type of feeding is taxonomically restricted to a small subset of leaf mining insects but can cause widespread plant damage during outbreaks. We studied the effect of epidermal mining on aspen growth and physiology during an outbreak of P. populiella in the boreal forest of interior Alaska. Experimental reduction of leaf miner density across two sites and 3 years significantly increased annual aspen growth rates relative to naturally mined controls. Leaf mining damage was negatively related to leaf longevity. Leaves with heavy mining damage abscised 4 weeks earlier, on average, than leaves with minimal mining damage. Mining damage to the top and bottom surfaces of leaves had different effects on physiology. Mining on the top surface of the leaf had no significant effect on photosynthesis or conductance and was unrelated to leaf stable C isotope ratio (δ13C). Mining damage to the bottom leaf surface, where stomata are located, had significant negative effects on net photosynthesis and water vapor conductance. Percent bottom mining was positively related to leaf δ13C. Taken together, the data suggest that the primary mechanism for the reduction of photosynthesis by epidermal leaf mining by P. populiella is the failure of stomata to open normally on bottom-mined leaves.

Communicated by Evan DeLucia.