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Journal Article

Plant community diversity influences allocation to direct chemical defence in Plantago lanceolata

MPS-Authors
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Mraja,  A.
Emeritus Group, Prof. E.-D. Schulze, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Roscher,  C.
Emeritus Group, Prof. E.-D. Schulze, Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry, Max Planck Society;

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Citation

Mraja, A., Unsicker, S. B., Reichelt, M., Gershenzon, J., & Roscher, C. (2011). Plant community diversity influences allocation to direct chemical defence in Plantago lanceolata. Plos One, 6(12), e28055. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0028055.


Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-000E-DC41-E
Abstract
Background: Forecasting the consequences of accelerating rates of changes in biodiversity for ecosystem functioning requires a mechanistic understanding of the relationships between the structure of biological communities and variation in plant functional characteristics. So far, experimental data of how plant species diversity influences the investment of individual plants in direct chemical defences against herbivores and pathogens is lacking. Methodology/Principal Findings: We used Plantago lanceolata as a model species in experimental grasslands differing in species richness and composition (Jena Experiment) to investigate foliar concentrations of the iridoid glycosides (IG), catalpol and its biosynthetic precursor aucubin. Total IG and aucubin concentrations decreased, while catalpol concentrations increased with increasing plant diversity in terms of species or functional group richness. Negative plant diversity effects on total IG and aucubin concentrations correlated with increasing specific leaf area of P. lanceolata, suggesting that greater allocation to light acquisition reduced the investment into these carbon-based defence components. In contrast, increasing leaf nitrogen concentrations best explained increasing concentrations of the biosynthetically more advanced IG, catalpol. Observed levels of leaf damage explained a significant proportion of variation in total IG and aucubin concentrations, but did not account for variance in catalpol concentrations. Conclusions/Significance: Our results clearly show that plants growing in communities of varying species richness and composition differ in their defensive chemistry, which may modulate plant susceptibility to enemy attack and consequently their interactions with higher trophic level organisms.