Cerambycid girdling and water stress modify mesquite architecture and reproduction

Abstract

This study evaluated the effect of an outbreak of the cerambycid beetle, Oncideres rhodosticta, on branch growth and inflorescence production of the mesquite Prosopis glandulosa var. torreyana, and on larvae mortality in girdled branches at two sites (dry and wet) in the southern Chihuahuan Desert of Mexico. We compared stem growth responses to girdling in branches of similar sized trees from both sites over 42 months. The number of larvae per girdled branch was similar between sites, indicating similar ovipositing effort regardless of water stress. However, the proportion of dead larvae was significantly lower in trees at the dry site. On average, girdling reduced 96% of the stem length at both sites. At the end of the first year, 25% of the original stubs survived at the dry site, compared to 90% at the wet site. Girdling also broke apical dominance and allowed for the development of lateral buds from the surviving stubs, which produced many fewer branches and inflorescences at the dry site compared to the wet site, where a compact crown was developed. Water stress and girdling have a combined effect on mesquite architecture and reproduction, since more stubs died at the dry site while new branches from surviving stubs developed at the wet site, recovering the original lost biomass but changing the appearance of the tree.

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Acknowledgments

We appreciate the commentaries and suggestions by F.W. Ewers, M.L. Martínez, F. Ornelas and F. Valladares during different stages of this work. We thank Z. Durán, A. Herrera, A. Mottet, G. Beucher, G. Montes Cartas, L. Ríos, and J.F. Soulard for field assistance, and the facilities of the Instituto de Investigaciones Psicológicas, Universidad Veracruzana provided to A.J.M. This research was supported in part by the projects SEP CONACYT 2003-CO-43838, UVER-PTC-223 and 902-16 from the Instituto de Ecología A.C. Our study was conducted in conjunction with the Mapimi Long-Term Exclusion Experiment (MLTER) coordinated by L. Hernández.

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Martínez, A.J., López-Portillo, J., Eben, A. et al. Cerambycid girdling and water stress modify mesquite architecture and reproduction. Popul Ecol 51, 533–541 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10144-009-0149-1

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Keywords

  • Apical dominance
  • ENSO
  • Herbivory
  • Predawn water potential
  • Shoot regrowth
  • Stem boring beetle