Developmental and spatial covariation of nutrients in growing leaves of Daphne laureola and their relationships with herbivory
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- • Here, we studied patterns of covariation of 10 leaf nutrients in expanding and mature leaves of the evergreen shrub Daphne laureola (Thymelaeaceae) in southern Spain. Changes in mean values and covariances of nutrients during leaf development may be relevant for plant fitness through herbivory if variation in leaf nutrients influences plant defoliation.
- • We analysed the between-population and developmental covariation of leaf nutrients by using common principal components (CPC) analysis. We also studied the relationships between leaf nutrient covariates and natural levels of plant defoliation.
- • Plants at our two study sites shared a CPC structure of covariation between concentrations of the leaf nutrients. Trends of nutrient covariation across individual plants were largely determined by between-plant variations in Ca concentration (CPC1), and by an ‘overall nutrient status’ gradient (CPC2) that was positively associated with major macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), in both expanding and mature leaves.
- • Plant defoliation was positively related to scores on CPC2 for both expanding and mature leaves, indicating greater consumption on plants with balanced, high concentrations of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and calcium.