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Herbivory-mediated pollinator limitation: negative impacts of induced volatiles on plant-pollinator interactions

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Kessler, A., Halitschke, R., & Poveda, K. (2011). Herbivory-mediated pollinator limitation: negative impacts of induced volatiles on plant-pollinator interactions. Ecology, 92(9), 1769-1780. doi:10.1890/10-1945.1.

Although induced plant responses to herbivory are well studied as mechanisms of resistance, how induction shapes community interactions and ultimately plant fitness is still relatively unknown. Using a wild tomato, Solanum peruvianum, native to the Peruvian Andes, we evaluated the disruption of pollination as a potential ecological cost of induced responses. More specifically, we tested the hypothesis that metabolic changes in herbivore-attacked plants, such as the herbivore-induced emission of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), alter pollinator behavior and consequentially affect plant fitness. We conducted a series of manipulative field experiments to evaluate the role of herbivore-induced vegetative and floral VOC emissions as mechanisms by which herbivory affects pollinator behavior. In field surveys and bioassays in the plants' native habitat, we found that real and simulated herbivory (methyl jasmonate application) reduced attractiveness of S. peruvianum flowers to their native pollinators. We show that reduced pollinator preference, not resource limitation due to leaf tissue removal, resulted in reduced seed set. Solitary bee pollinators use floral plant volatiles, emitted in response to herbivory or methyl jasmonate treatment, as cues to avoid inflorescences on damaged plants. This herbivory-induced pollinator limitation can be viewed as a general cost of induced plant responses as well as a specific cost of herbivory-induced volatile emission.