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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2007

Growth, chemical responses and herbivory after simulated leaf browsing in Combretum apiculatum

Rooke T, Bergstrom R


Vegetative and chemical responses to simulated leaf browsing during the growth season, and their subsequent effect on herbivory, were studied on Combretum apiculatum Sonder (Combretaceae) in Botswana. Treatments (50% and 100% leaf and shoot apex removal) were performed just before the shoot growth curve levelled out, and responses recorded 3 months later, just before leaf fall. Compared to controls, defoliation treatments, removing apical dominance, reduced growth in tree height and increased shoot mortality, although the production of lateral shoots increased. At the end of the trial, there was no difference in total length of annual shoots between treatment groups. Significant refoliation occurred only after 100% defoliation. Refoliated leaves were smaller and the 100% defoliated trees had a lower final leaf biomass. Total leaf biomass production was, however, equal for all treatment groups. Refoliated leaves contained higher levels of N, lower levels of acid-detergent fibre (ADF) and total phenolics, and showed a trend towards lower levels of condensed tannins, compared to leaves on control trees. Such chemical changes may be due to either carbon stress or to younger physiological age of new leaves. In spite of the observed potential increase in food quality, we found no evidence of increased levels of insect or ungulate herbivory on refoliated leaves, which, at least for insect herbivory, may be explained by the reduction in temporal availability of leaves. We conclude that the single severe defoliation was not detrimental to C. apiculatum in the short-term, although the resource loss and induced compensatory growth may produce negative effects during subsequent growth seasons

Published in

Plant Ecology
2007, volume: 189, number: 2, pages: 201-212
Publisher: SPRINGER

Authors' information

Rooke, Tuulikki
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Animal Ecology
Bergström, Roger

UKÄ Subject classification

Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

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