Heather plants (Calluna vulgaris (L.) Hull) were grown for two years (April 1994–October 1996) under ambient or enhanced ultraviolet-B radiation (UVB: 280–315 nm), provided as a modulated treatment simulating a 15% ozone depletion (seasonally adjusted). Populations of the psyllid (Strophingia ericae (Curtis)) were measured before treatment and at yearly intervals thereafter. Before treatment there was no significant difference in the psyllid populations between treatments, or between the experimental and source populations. Enhanced UVB progressively produced a reduction in S. ericae populations compared with controls over 27 months. Analyses of C, N, total water soluble phenolics, total free amino acids and measurements of leaf angles and distances between leaflets demonstrated no effects of UVB treatment. However, concentrations of the amino acid isoleucine were lower (28%) in C. vulgaris exposed to the enhanced UVB treatment. Over the duration of the experiment the psyllid population structure at Lancaster changed from that typical of the upland site of origin (two-year cycle with overlapping cohorts) to a one-year life cycle typical of lowland sites, but this was independent of UVB treatments.
Reduced isoleucine might explain the negative effects of elevated UVB on psyllid population numbers, but the precise effects of UVB on host chemistry and morphology are unknown. The problem of interpreting herbivore responses to enhanced UVB treatments in the field is discussed.