Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 21, Issue 10, pp 1421–1446

Variation among and within mountain birch trees in foliage phenols, carbohydrates, and amino acids, and in growth ofEpirrita autumnata larvae

  • Janne Suomela
  • Vladimir Ossipov
  • Erkki Haukioja


Leaf quality of the mountain birch (Betula pubescens ssp.tortuosa) for herbivores was studied at several hierarchical levels: among trees, among ramets within trees, among branches within ramets, and among short shoots within branches. The experimental units at each level were chosen randomly. The indices of leaf quality were the growth rate of the larvae of a geometrid,Epirrita autumnata, and certain biochemical traits of the leaves (total phenolics and individual phenolic compounds, total carbohydrates and individual sugars, free and protein-bound amino acids). We also discuss relationships between larval growth rate and biochemical foliage traits. Larval growth rates during two successive years correlated positively at the level of tree, the ramet, and the branch, indicating that the relationships in leaf quality remained constant between seasons both among and within trees. The distribution of variation at different hierarchical levels depended on the trait in question. In the case of larval growth rate, ramets and short shoots accounted for most of the explained variation. In the case of biochemical compounds, trees accounted for most of the variance in the content of total phenolics and individual low-molecular-weight phenolics. In the content of carbohydrates (total carbohydrates, starch, fructose, glucose, and sucrose) and amino acids, variation among branches was generally larger than variation among trees. Variation among ramets was low for most compounds. No single leaf trait played a paramount role in larval growth. Secondary compounds, represented by phenolic compounds, or primary metabolites, particularly sugars, may both be important in determining the suitability of birch leaves for larvae. If phenols are causally more important, genet-specific analyses of foliage chemistry are needed. If sugars are of primary importance, within-genet sampling and analysis of foliage chemistry are necessary.

Key Words

Amino acids Betula pubescens ssp.tortuosa carbohydrates Epirrita autumnata larval growth leaf biochemical traits phenolics sugars within-tree variation 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1995

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janne Suomela
    • 1
  • Vladimir Ossipov
    • 1
    • 2
  • Erkki Haukioja
    • 1
  1. 1.Laboratory of Ecological Zoology, Department of Biology, and Kevo Subarctic Research StationUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Institute of Forest KrasnoyarskAkademgorodokRussia

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