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Title (Primary) Plant community diversity influences allocation to direct chemical defence in Plantago lanceolata
Author Mraja, A.; Unsicker, S.B.; Reichelt, M.; Gershenzon, J.; Roscher, C.
Journal PLoS ONE
Year 2011
Department BZF
Volume 6
Issue 12
Page From e28055
Language englisch

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.
Persistent UFZ Identifier
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