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Keywords:

  • Elatobium abietinum;
  • Gilpinia hercyniae;
  • Phacidium coniferarum;
  • phenology;
  • quantitative defence;
  • resin ducts;
  • root/shoot ratio

1. Young plants of a northern (Alaska) and southern (Oregon) provenance of Sitka Spruce, Picea sitchensis, were subject to high and low light and high and low nitrogen treatments in a polyhouse experiment. The effect of treatments on growth, needle and resin duct size, water content and concentration of quantitative defences (resin and polyphenols), sugars and nitrogen in needles, stems and roots was determined.

2. Concentrations of resin, polyphenols and carbohydrates were higher in low nitrogen treatments as predicted by resource-availability models of defence and the changes were similar in all parts of the trees including roots and in tissues formed prior to experimental treatments. Variation in the relative concentration of resin and polyphenols between tissues may indicate a defensive trade-off. The size of needle resin ducts was positively correlated with tree growth but no evidence for ‘structural’ limitation of resin concentration in needles was found.

3. Changes in concentration of quantitative defences did not appear to be the result of a direct trade-off with growth but reflected treatment-induced variation in the root/shoot ratio. Production of quantitative secondary chemicals may therefore be part of an integrated response of the trees to environmental stress.

4. Bioassays with Elatobium abietinum, Gilpinia hercyniae and the fungus Phacidium coniferarum showed that changes in needle size, the nutritional and water content of tissues and the balance between nutrients and secondary chemicals influenced performance of one or more of the organisms. Changes in the concentration of carbon-based secondary chemicals alone were, therefore, of only limited value in predicting susceptibility of Spruce to insects and fungi.