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Directional associational plant defense from Red deer (Cervus elaphus) foraging decisions
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Zoology.
Number of Authors: 2
2017 (English)In: Ecosphere, ISSN 2150-8925, E-ISSN 2150-8925, Vol. 8, no 3, e01714Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The concept of associational plant defenses is widely accepted and implies that an unpalatable plant can protect its neighbors from grazing. We have investigated the new but similar question of whether a part of a plant, for example, the top or bottom, can protect other parts. At the same time, we investigated whether the previously observed selection of the apical shoot and upper leaves of plants is a direct consequence of food quality (the plant vigor hypothesis) or whether there is an innate or learnt foraging pattern behind the observation. In experiments, we used 1 m high artificial trees, made from aspen branches, and measured red deer browsing from the top (above 0.5 m) and bottom (below 0.5 m), with application of condensed tannin to the top or bottom as a proxy for plant part unpalatability. There were four treatments where either none, both, or one part (top or bottom) of the artificial trees had tannin applied. As expected, we found that red deer consumed less from parts with tannin. We also found that a defended top protected an undefended bottom, but we found no evidence for the opposite relationship, which could be explained by foraging behavior. When examining the behavior, we found that adult red deer prefer to start feeding from the top of a plant. We also found that they spent a shorter time feeding on a defended top. This behavior might cause a defended top to protect an undefended bottom. Such directional associational plant defense could be the result of selectivity with limited flexibility and might be more pronounced for mammalian herbivores than for insects, since mammals are bigger in size and more restricted in their head position. An important applied aspect of these results is that when saplings are protected by adding a repellent, for instance in forestry, it might be enough to apply repellent to the tops. On the other hand, according to this directional associational plant defense, protected bottoms will not protect tops, so newly grown apical shoots may need new protection.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 8, no 3, e01714
Keyword [en]
apical shoot, food selection, plant secondary compounds, sapling, tannin
National Category
Biological Sciences
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142482DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1714ISI: 000397102400002OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-142482DiVA: diva2:1095987
Available from: 2017-05-16 Created: 2017-05-16 Last updated: 2017-05-16Bibliographically approved

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Bergvall, Ulrika A.Leimar, Olof
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CiteExportLink to record
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