Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 43, Issue 10, pp 1023–1030 | Cite as

Phenolic Glycosides in Populus tremuloides and their Effects on Long-Term Ungulate Browsing

  • R. A. Lastra
  • N. C. Kenkel
  • F. Daayf


In the aspen-grassland ecotone of Riding Mountain, Manitoba, lightly browsed vigorous clones of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) occur in close proximity to heavily browsed dieback clones. This study examines whether intraspecific variation in the production of phenolic glycosides is correlated with this strong dichotomy in clonal vigor. Individual clones were sampled over four years at three sites located along a gradient of increasing soil moisture stress. At each site, eight aspen clones of similar size and age were sampled: four vigorous and four dieback clones (total of 24 individual clones). The severity of wapiti (elk) browsing was assessed as the ratio of browse-damaged to total branches per aspen ramet. Statistically significant differences in foliar concentrations of the phenolic glycosides salicortin and tremulacin were observed between vigorous and dieback clones: a mean of 14.8% dry mass for lightly browsed (vigorous) clones, versus just 7.0% for heavily browsed (dieback) clones. Mean concentrations of foliar phenolics were also significantly greater in more moisture-stressed sites. These results demonstrate that the strong dichotomy in clonal vigor (vigorous versus dieback clones) is associated with large differences in phenolic glycoside production. Vigorous clone ramets produce high amounts of phenolic glycosides and have low levels of herbivore browsing and low mortality rates, whereas dieback clone ramets have low amounts of phenolic glycosides and much higher herbivore browsing and mortality rates. This suggests that intraspecific variation in phenolic glycosides in trembling aspen is an important predisposing factor leading to ramet mortality, and by extension to the decline of aspen clones.


Manitoba Secondary metabolites Tremulacin Salicortin Trembling aspen Elk Ungulate herbivory 



We gratefully acknowledge Parks Canada (Riding Mountain National Park) for both financial and logistical support. This research was also supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada grant to N.C. Kenkel, and a University of Manitoba Duff Roblin Graduate Fellowship to R.A. Lastra. We would like to thank Dr. John Wilmshurst; Wybo Vanderschuit (Parks Canada); Kelly Orr; Gusse and Dr. Richard Lindroth (Department of Entomology, University of Wisconsin-Madison); Lorne Adam and Dr. Abdelbasset El Hadrami (Department of Plant Science, University of Manitoba); and Dr. Sylvie Renault (Department of Biological Sciences, University of Manitoba).


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological SciencesUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada
  2. 2.Department of Plant ScienceUniversity of ManitobaWinnipegCanada

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