, Volume 150, Issue 3, pp 409–420 | Cite as

How do soil nutrients affect within-plant patterns of herbivory in seedlings of Eucalyptus nitens?

  • Prue E. Loney
  • Clare McArthur
  • Gordon D. Sanson
  • Noel W. Davies
  • Dugald C. Close
  • Gregory J. Jordan
Plant Animal Interactions


This study assessed how the palatability of leaves of different age classes (young, intermediate and older) of Eucalyptus nitens seedlings varied with plant nutrient status, based on captive feeding trials with two mammalian herbivores, red-bellied pademelons (Thylogale billardierii), and common brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). Seedlings were grown under three nutrient treatments (low, medium and high), and we determined how palatability was related to chemical and physical characteristics of the leaves. Pademelons ate more older leaves than young and intermediate leaves for all treatments. This pattern was best explained by sideroxylonals (formylated phloroglucinol compounds known to deter herbivory by other marsupials), and/or essential oil compounds that were present in lower concentrations in older leaves. In the low-nutrient treatment, possums also ate more of the older leaves. However, in the medium- and high-nutrient treatments, possums ate more intermediate leaves than older leaves and showed a behavioural preference for young leaves (consuming younger leaves first) over intermediate and older leaves, in spite of high levels of sideroxylonals and essential oils. The young leaves did, however, have the highest nitrogen concentration of all the leaf age classes. Thus, either sideroxylonals and essential oils provided little or no deterrent to possums, or the deterrent was outweighed by other factors such as high nitrogen. This study indicates that mammalian herbivores show different levels of relative use and damage to leaf age classes at varying levels of plant nutrient status and, therefore, their impact on plant fitness may vary with environment.


Eucalyptus Leaf age Mammalian herbivores Ontogeny Plant secondary compounds 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Prue E. Loney
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Clare McArthur
    • 4
  • Gordon D. Sanson
    • 5
  • Noel W. Davies
    • 6
  • Dugald C. Close
    • 1
    • 7
  • Gregory J. Jordan
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Cooperative Research Centre for ForestryUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  2. 2.School of Plant ScienceUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  3. 3.School of ZoologyUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  4. 4.School of Biological Sciences, Heydon-Laurence Building (A08)The University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  5. 5.School of Biological SciencesMonash UniversityClaytonAustralia
  6. 6.Central Science LaboratoryUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  7. 7.Botanic Garden and Parks AuthorityWest PerthAustralia

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