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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2018

Folivory has long-term effects on sexual but not on asexual reproduction in woodland strawberry

Muola, Anne; Stenberg, Johan A.


Plant fitness is often a result of both sexual and asexual reproductive success and, in perennial plants, over several years. Folivory can affect both modes of reproduction. However, little is known about the effects of folivory on resource allocation to the two modes of reproduction simultaneously and across years. In a 2-year common garden experiment, we examined the effects of different levels of folivory by the strawberry leaf beetle, Galerucella tenella, on current growth, as well as current and future sexual and asexual reproduction (runners) of perennial woodland strawberry, Fragaria vesca. In addition, we measured the chlorophyll content in leaves in the year of experimental damage to determine whether there was increased photosynthetic activity, and, thus, a compensatory response to herbivory. Finally, we tested whether the previous year's folivory, as a result of its effect on plant fitness, affected the level of natural herbivory the plant experienced during the subsequent year. In the year of experimental damage, plants that were exposed to moderate and high levels of folivory (25% and 50% leaf area consumed, respectively) increased their photosynthetic activity compared to control plants. However, only plants exposed to high folivory exhibited negative effects, with a lower probability of flowering compared to control plants, indicating that plants exposed to low or moderate folivory were able to compensate for the damage. Negative effects of folivory were carried over to the subsequent year. Plants that were exposed to moderate folivory (25% leaf area consumed) during first year produced fewer flowers and fruits in the subsequent year. Runner production was consistently unaffected by folivory. The effects of experimental folivory on the level of natural herbivory were mediated via its effects on plant fitness. Our results show that the negative effects of folivory only influence sexual reproduction in woodland strawberry. Furthermore, even though woodland strawberry can tolerate moderate amounts of folivory in the short term, the negative effects on fitness appear later; this highlights the importance of studying the effects of herbivory over consecutive years in perennial plants.


clonal reproduction; compensation; fitness; Fragaria vesca; Galerucella tenella; leaf damage; plant tolerance; plant-herbivore interactions

Published in

Ecology and Evolution
2018, volume: 8, number: 23, pages: 12250-12259
Publisher: WILEY

Authors' information

Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology
University of Turku
Stenberg, Johan A. (Stenberg, Johan A)
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Plant Protection Biology

Associated SLU-program

SLU Network Plant Protection

UKÄ Subject classification

Agricultural Science

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