Effects of simulated shoot and leaf herbivory on vegetative growth and plant defense in Acacia drepanolobium

Plants have considerable ability to respond to herbivory, both with (above-ground) regrowth and with increased defense. We simulated both leaf and shoot herbivory in controlled, replicated experiments on individuals of Acacia drepanolobium in Laikipia, Kenya. These experiments were carried out on individuals that had experienced different, experimentally controlled histories of large mammalian herbivory. Both forms of simulated herbivory were associated with compensatory regrowth. Branches whose shoots had been removed grew significantly more over the next year than paired control branches, fully compensating for the lost shoot length. Branches whose leaves were removed both grew faster and had more leaves one year later than did control branches. Shoot removal, but not leaf removal, increased the production of side shoots. However, because past herbivore pressure was negatively associated with net shoot growth, there may be a long-term cost of herbivory even when plants appear to fully compensate for herbivory in the short term. In contrast to the effects on growth, simulated herbivory did not significantly increase physical (spines) or chemical (tannins) defenses, and there were no significant negative correlations between compensatory growth and plant defense.

Publish DateFebruary 15, 2019
Last UpdatedJanuary 26, 2021
Size116.06 KB