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Keywords:

  • antiherbivore strategies;
  • eucalypt plantations;
  • insect herbivory;
  • tolerance;
  • tree vigour

Abstract

In this paper it is argued that concepts developed in ecologically derived insect–plant interaction models can contribute directly to the management of insect herbivory in eucalypt plantations. Common to most species of commercially planted eucalypt is their genetic potential for early rapid growth. Several plant defence theories predict that intrinsically fast growing plants are able to tolerate relatively high levels of herbivory. The risk of this strategy failing increases when plants are exposed to external stressful factors that reduce canopy growth and vigour. Results from a young Eucalyptus camaldulensis plantation stressed by moisture deficit and two young Eucalyptus dunnii plantations, stressed by flooding and weed competition, respectively, are summarized. In all three cases, the stress-inducing agents reduced canopy growth rates and architecture so that the proportion of leaf tissue damaged by insects increased and the tree’s ability to tolerate this damage decreased. Therefore, alleviating tree stress through improved silvicultural practices or improved site selection techniques may indirectly reduce the impact of insect herbivory. In resource-limiting environments, an alternative approach may be to plant eucalypt species that although slower growing, are predicted to have better defended foliage. Manipulation of these natural antiherbivore plant strategies are not exclusive of other management approaches, such as the need for routine surveillance of key pest insects or the genetic selection of natural insect resistance and selective chemical control techniques, but should be viewed as an overarching concept for plantation health.