Genotypic Differences and Prior Defoliation Affect Re-Growth and Phytochemistry after Coppicing in Populus tremuloides
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- Stevens, M.T., Gusse, A.C. & Lindroth, R.L. J Chem Ecol (2012) 38: 306. doi:10.1007/s10886-012-0081-2
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Although considerable research has explored how tree growth and defense can be influenced by genotype, the biotic environment, and their interaction, little is known about how genotypic differences, prior defoliation, and their interactive effects persist in trees that re-grow after damage that severs their primary stem. To address these issues, we established a common garden consisting of twelve genotypes of potted aspen (Populus tremuloides) trees, and subjected half of the trees to defoliation in two successive years. At the beginning of the third year, all trees were severed at the soil surface (coppiced) and allowed to regenerate for five months. Afterwards, we counted the number of root and stump sprouts produced and measured the basal diameter (d) and height (h) of the tallest ramet in each pot. We collected leaves one and two years after the second defoliation and assessed levels of phenolic glycosides, condensed tannins, and nitrogen. In terms of re-growth, we found that the total number of sprouts produced varied by 3.6-fold among genotypes, and that prior defoliation decreased total sprout production by 24%. The size (d2h) of ramets, however, did not differ significantly among genotypes or defoliation classes. In terms of phytochemistry, we observed genotypic differences in concentrations of all phytochemicals assessed both one and two years after the second defoliation. Two years after defoliation, we observed effects of prior defoliation in a genotype-by-defoliation interaction for condensed tannins. Results from this study demonstrate that genotypic differences and impacts of prior defoliation persist to influence growth and defense traits in trees even after complete removal of above-ground stems, and thus likely influence productivity and plant-herbivore interactions in forests affected by natural disturbances or actively managed through coppicing.