Air pollution impedes plant-to-plant communication by volatiles

Authors

  • James D. Blande,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Environmental Science, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 1627, FIN 70211 Kuopio, Finland
      Correspondence: E-mail: james.blande@uef.fi
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  • Jarmo K. Holopainen,

    1. Department of Environmental Science, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 1627, FIN 70211 Kuopio, Finland
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  • Tao Li

    1. Department of Environmental Science, University of Eastern Finland, P.O. Box 1627, FIN 70211 Kuopio, Finland
    2. Key Laboratory of Arid and Grassland Agroecology, Lanzhou University, Ministry of Education, Lanzhou, Gansu Province 730000, China
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Correspondence: E-mail: james.blande@uef.fi

Abstract

Ecology Letters (2010) 13: 1172–1181

Abstract

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted by damaged plants convey information to undamaged neighbouring plants, and previous research has shown that these signals are effective over short distances in nature. Many herbivore-induced VOCs react with ozone, which is the most important tropospheric air pollutant in rural areas. We used extrafloral nectar (EFN) secretion as a phenotypic indicator of between-plant communication in Phaseolus lunatus L. (Lima bean) and show that an ozone-rich (80 ppb) atmosphere reduces the distance over which signalling occurs. We found that ozone degrades several herbivore-induced VOCs, a likely mechanism reducing communication distances. Direct exposure to 80-ppb ozone did not affect the VOC emissions from P. lunatus. In addition, we demonstrated that high ozone concentrations, 120 and 160 ppb, induced EFN secretion in exposed plants, whereas more moderate concentrations, 80 and 100 ppb, did not. This suggests that ozone can play a complex role in the indirect defence of P. lunatus.

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