Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 38, Issue 7, pp 902–913 | Cite as

Genetic and Environmental Factors Behind Foliar Chemistry of the Mature Mountain Birch

  • Sanna Haviola
  • Seppo Neuvonen
  • Markus J. Rantala
  • Kari Saikkonen
  • Juha-Pekka Salminen
  • Irma Saloniemi
  • Shiyong Yang
  • Teija Ruuhola


Previous studies of mountain birch (Betula pubescens spp. czerepanovii) repeatedly have found differences between individual trees in herbivory-related traits, but rarely have yielded estimates of the additive genetic variation of these traits or of their relationship to habitat. We used thirty-year-old birch half-sibs in a northern common garden to estimate the effect of genetics and local microhabitat on resistance-related traits. Genetic estimates of foliar chemistry have been studied only rarely with trees as old as these. Moth performance (Epirrita autumnata), rust (Melampsoridium betulinum) incidence levels, and the general level of natural herbivory damage to individual trees were used as direct measures of birch resistance. Chemical resistance-related traits in plant chemistry included 15 individual phenolics, 16 amino acids, and phenoloxidase activities in the foliage. We also followed birch phenology and growth. Our results show that the genotype of the birch was the most important determinant of phenolic composition and phenoloxidase activity, but that amino acid levels were best explained by the microhabitat of the birch. We also found that the phenology of the birch had a high heritability, although its variation was low. Our results reveal rich genetic variation in birch chemistry.


Microhabitat Additive genetic variation Heritability Woody plant Phenotypic correlation Phenotypic plasticity Insect outbreaks 



We are grateful to Alice Liu, who started the fertilization treatments. We also thank the staff of the Kevo Subarctic Research Station, especially for creating and maintaining the tree-line gardens and for providing research facilities and a good atmosphere; as well as our summer assistants, Ulla Anttila, Pauliina Wäli, and Mikko Oikamo, for making this study possible. The language of the manuscript was checked by Ellen Valle. The study was supported financially by the Academy of Finland (TR and MJR) and by the Finnish Cultural Foundation (SH). The experiments presented comply with current Finnish legislation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sanna Haviola
    • 1
    • 2
  • Seppo Neuvonen
    • 3
  • Markus J. Rantala
    • 1
  • Kari Saikkonen
    • 4
  • Juha-Pekka Salminen
    • 5
  • Irma Saloniemi
    • 6
  • Shiyong Yang
    • 1
    • 7
  • Teija Ruuhola
    • 8
  1. 1.Section of Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  2. 2.Kevo Subarctic Research InstituteUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  3. 3.The Finnish Forest Research InstituteJoensuuFinland
  4. 4.Plant Production ResearchMTT Agrifood Research FinlandJokioinenFinland
  5. 5.Laboratory of Organic Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Department of ChemistryUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  6. 6.Laboratory of Genetics, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland
  7. 7.Section of Ecology, College of Life ScienceAnhui Normal UniversityWuhuChina
  8. 8.Department of BiologyUniversity of Eastern Finland (UEF)JoensuuFinland

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