Nutrient status not secondary metabolites drives herbivory and pathogen infestation across differently mycorrhized tree monocultures and mixtures

Basic Appl Ecol. 2021 Sep;55:110-123. doi: 10.1016/j.baae.2020.09.009. Epub 2020 Sep 28.


Research aimed at understanding the mechanisms underlying the relationship between tree diversity and antagonist infestation is often neglecting resource-use complementarity among plant species. We investigated the effects of tree species identity, species richness, and mycorrhizal type on leaf herbivory and pathogen infestation. We used a tree sapling experiment manipulating the two most common mycorrhizal types, arbuscular mycorrhiza and ectomycorrhiza, via respective tree species in monocultures and two-species mixtures. We visually assessed leaf herbivory and pathogen infestation rates, and measured concentrations of a suite of plant metabolites (amino acids, sugars, and phenolics), leaf elemental concentrations (carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus), and tree biomass. Tree species and mycorrhizal richness had no significant effect on herbivory and pathogen infestation, whereas species identity and mycorrhizal type had. Damage rates were higher in arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) than in ectomycorrhizal (EM) trees. Our structural equation model (SEM) indicated that elemental, but not metabolite concentrations, determined herbivory and pathogen infestation, suggesting that the investigated chemical defence strategies may not have been involved in the effects found in our study with tree saplings. Other chemical and physical defence strategies as well as species identity as its determinant may have played a more crucial role in the studied saplings. Furthermore, the SEM indicated a direct positive effect of AM trees on herbivory rates, suggesting that other dominant mechanisms, not considered here, were involved as well. We found differences in the attribution of elemental concentrations between the two rates. This points to the fact that herbivory and pathogen infestation are driven by distinct mechanisms. Our study highlights the importance of biotic contexts for understanding the mechanisms underlying the effects of biodiversity on tree-antagonist interactions.

PMID:34493930 | PMC:PMC7611625 | DOI:10.1016/j.baae.2020.09.009


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