, Volume 100, Issue 6, pp 525-532
Date: 28 Apr 2013

Effect of post-fire resprouting on leaf fluctuating asymmetry, extrafloral nectar quality, and ant–plant–herbivore interactions

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Abstract

Fires in the Cerrado savanna are a severe form of disturbance, but some species are capable of resprouting afterwards. It is unknown, however, how and whether post-fire resprouting represents a stressful condition to plants and how their rapid re-growth influences both the production of biochemical compounds, and interactions with mutualistic ants. In this study, we examined the influence of post-fire resprouting on biotic interactions (ant–plant–herbivore relationships) and on plant stress. The study was performed on two groups of the extrafloral nectaried shrub Banisteriopsis campestris (Malpighiaceae); one group was recovering from fire while the other acted as control. With respect to biotic interactions, we examined whether resprouting influenced extrafloral nectar concentration (milligrams per microliter), the abundance of the ant Camponotus crassus and leaf herbivory rates. Plant stress was assessed via fluctuating asymmetry (FA) analysis, which refers to deviations from perfect symmetry in bilaterally symmetrical traits (e.g., leaves) and indicates whether species are under stress. Results revealed that FA, sugar concentration, and ant abundance were 51.7 %, 35.7 % and 21.7 % higher in resprouting plants. Furthermore, C. crassus was significantly associated with low herbivory rates, but only in resprouting plants. This study showed that post-fire resprouting induced high levels of plant stress and influenced extrafloral nectar quality and ant-herbivore relationships in B. campestris. Therefore, despite being a stressful condition to the plant, post-fire resprouting individuals had concentrated extrafloral nectar and sustained more ants, thus strengthening the outcomes of ant–plant mutualism.

Communicated by: Beverley Glover