, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 51-58

Monoterpene chemodiversity of ponderosa pine in relation to herbivory and bark beetle colonization

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Summary.

Ponderosa pine, Pinus ponderosa Laws. (Pinaceae), forests in Arizona have suffered from a nine-year period of drought and bark beetle, Ips lecontei Swaine (Coleoptera: Scolytidae), outbreaks. Abiotic and biotic stress in ponderosa pine results in the induced synthesis of certain monoterpenes that may in turn affect bark beetle behavior and survival. In this study, we investigate whether induced monoterpene production could result in a different monoterpene composition that remains stored in the needles or the trunk resin of the tree. Needle and resin samples in addition to trunk cores were collected from ponderosa pines at three locations in Arizona. Ungulate browsing induced a significant increase in limonene (P=0.010) and in chemodiversity (P=0.009), a measure of the evenness of distribution among the monoterpenes present in needles. We compared the level of ‘stress’ of the trees by measuring the thickness of annual rings in living trees and those that were killed by bark beetles. Where drought occurred, the spacing of annual rings from the last 10 years of trees killed by bark beetles was significantly smaller (P=0.020) compared to living trees. There was no difference in the monoterpene composition between the core sections of closest spacing of annual rings (stressed years) compared to the sections of widest spacing, which indicates that monoterpenes are distributed evenly throughout the extended resin system. In the area where the degree of drought was less overall, none of the individual monoterpenes present in the resin was related to bark beetle killed trees. However, about half the living pines had resin in which one of the major monoterpenes (α-pinene, Δ3-carene, and limonene) was absent, and these trees had a lower monoterpene chemodiversity compared to trees killed by bark beetles. Trees with these three major monoterpenes, corresponding to the average relative proportion in living pines at that location, may sustain higher selection and colonization by bark beetles.