, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 251–262 | Cite as

The effects of simulated acid rain and heavy metal pollution on the mountain birch–autumnal moth interaction

  • Tapio van Ooik
  • Markus J. Rantala
  • Juha-Pekka Salminen
  • Shiyong Yang
  • Seppo Neuvonen
  • Teija Ruuhola
Research Paper


The exposure of plants to abiotic stresses like air pollutants may increase their susceptibility to herbivores. However, abiotic stresses often induce the accumulation of phenolic compounds that may have adverse effects on plant-eating animals. In this study, we examined the effects of long-term (14 years) deposition of simulated acid rain (H2SO4) and heavy metals (CuNi) on the plant–herbivore interaction. The used species were well-known model species of plant–herbivore interaction, namely the mountain birch (Betula pubescens ssp. czerepanovii) and autumnal moth (Epirrita autumnata). The study set-up was factorial with four combinations of two treatments: −acid−CuNi, +acid−CuNi, −acid+CuNi, and +acid+CuNi. The deposition of pollutants had no marked effects on the growth, survival, or immune function of the autumnal moth although the chemistry of birch leaves was markedly affected. The concentrations of gallic acid, chlorogenic acid, three of hydrolyzable tannins (HTs), and quercetin glycosides were induced by the acid rain treatment when compared to leaves not treated with acid rain. We concluded that an increase in compounds with high redox capacity was a defense against oxidative stress caused by pollution treatments. We suggested that pollution might have increased the deposition of non-phenolic antioxidants like ascorbate that diminish the adverse effects of phenolics on herbivores. We also stated that abiotic stresses might play an equally strong role in the evolution of phenolics than herbivory if not larger.


Abiotic stress Autumnal moth Immunity Mountain birch Phenolics Pollution 



We thank the staff of the Kevo Subarctic Research Institute for help and providing pleasant working facilities and all those who have contributed to the long-term simulated acid rain and heavy metal pollution experiment. We thank Sanna Haviola for assistance in the fieldwork and Line Nybakken for invaluable comments concerning the MS. This research was made possible by finance granted by the Academy of Finland to TR and MJR and by the Kone Foundation. William Sillitoe kindly checked the English of the manuscript.


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© Springer Basel AG 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tapio van Ooik
    • 1
  • Markus J. Rantala
    • 1
  • Juha-Pekka Salminen
    • 2
  • Shiyong Yang
    • 4
  • Seppo Neuvonen
    • 3
  • Teija Ruuhola
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Laboratory of Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Department of ChemistryUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  3. 3.Joensuu Unit, Finnish Forest Research InstituteJoensuuFinland
  4. 4.Section of Ecology, Department of BiologyAnhui Normal UniversityWuhuChina
  5. 5.Department of BiologyUniversity of Eastern Finland (UEF)JoensuuFinland

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