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Keywords:

  • Anoplognathus chloropyrus;
  • Ctenarytaina eucalypti;
  • frost;
  • Hyalarcta huebneri;
  • insect–plant interactions;
  • plant stress hypothesis;
  • plant vigour hypothesis

Abstract

The plant stress hypothesis suggests that some herbivores favour stressed plants, whereas the plant vigour hypothesis proposes that other herbivores prefer vigorous plants. The effects of a prior stress, that of frost damage, were examined on the subsequent growth of Eucalyptus globulus globulus and on the response of insect herbivores. Frost damage affected tree growth by reducing new leaf area and increasing specific leaf area (SLA). However, herbivore abundance was not affected by prior frost damage. Two feeding trials using Anoplognathus chloropyrus and Hyalarcta huebneri and a morphometric study of Ctenarytaina eucalypti were conducted to assess the performance of herbivores on trees that had suffered more or less frost damage. Consumption by A. chloropyrus and H. huebneri was unaffected by foliage origin (damaged versus healthy). Hyalarcta huebneri grew faster when fed leaves from previously damaged trees, and C. eucalypti from previously damaged trees were larger than those from healthy trees. Enhanced insect performance on frost damaged plants may have resulted from the high specific leaf area (most likely thinner) leaves. The herbivore abundance data did not support the hypothesis that previously frost damaged plants are preferred by insects. However, increased growth of H. huebneri and larger body size of C. eucalypti on damaged trees indicates that previously stressed trees may produce leaves of higher nutritional value.