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Journal Article

Constraints on an induced defense: the role of leaf area

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Baldwin, I. T., & Schmelz, E. A. (1994). Constraints on an induced defense: the role of leaf area. Oecologia, 97(3), 424-430. doi:10.1007/BF00317335.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0012-AC19-2
Folivory results in both leaf damage and the loss of photosynthetic capacity. Leaf damage activates the production of induced defenses, but diminished photosynthetic capacity resulting from lost leaf area may impair a plant's ability to respond defensively. Because damage-induced nicotine production in Nicotiana sylvestris (Solanaceae) is an energy-demanding, active process, we predicted that the loss of leaf area would constrain this plant's ability to produce an induced nicotine pool. We examined our prediction in an experiment which combined leaf puncture and removal protocols, quantified induced nicotine pools on a whole-plant basis, and accounted for losses in the nicotine pool due to removed leaves and lost growth potential. In contrast to our prediction, leaf removal did little to diminish the growth-corrected estimates of the induced nicotine pool in plants with sufficient damage “cue”; only when plants had lost 88% or more of their leaf area did the induced nicotine pool decline significantly. These results demonstrate that the induced defense is relatively insensitive to current photosynthetic capacity. In contrast to the size of the induced nicotine pool, the concentration of nicotine in the remaining shoot tissues continued to rise as puncture damage increased over all defoliation levels tested. The mechanisms responsible for inducible nicotine production may have evolved as a means of providing shoot tissues with protection that is proportional to the amount of damage incurred while keeping production costs constant for the remaining plant parts.