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Response of Salvinia molesta to insect damage: changes in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content


When adults and larvae of the weevil Cyrtobagous salviniae destroyed buds and tunnelled through rhizomes of Salvinia molesta, the plant responded by producting new growth which contained higher concentrations of nitrogen than in undamaged plants or in the older parent tissue of the same plant. Damage to leaves by the moth, Samea multiplicalis did not induce the same response. C. salviniae fed on the new growth and the higher nitrogen intake would have increased its reproductive capacity and enhanced its action as a biological control agent.

Damage by both insects resulted in potassium leaching from the plant but no change in concentrations of phosphorus. The results support earlier suggestions that damage by C. salviniae might improve the qualtity of the host plant for this herbivore.

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Correspondence to I. W. Forno.

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Forno, I.W., Semple, J.L. Response of Salvinia molesta to insect damage: changes in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium content. Oecologia 73, 71–74 (1987).

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Key words

  • Salvinia
  • Herbivory
  • Insect
  • Nutrients