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Keywords:

  • chemical defenses;
  • condensed tannins;
  • costs of defense;
  • marsh reed grass (Calamagrostis canadensis);
  • phenolic glycosides;
  • plant growth;
  • plant physiology;
  • trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides)

Summary

  • • 
    Costs of defense are thought to maintain genetic variations in the expression of defense within plant populations. As with many plant species, aspen exhibits considerable variation in allocation to secondary metabolites. This study examined the independent and interactive effects of genotype, soil fertility and belowground competition on defensive chemistry and growth in trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides).
  • • 
    Four aspen genotypes were grown with high and low soil fertility, and with and without root competition. Physiological, morphological and allocational determinants of growth were measured to identify growth–defense tradeoffs.
  • • 
    Nutrient limitation and competition decreased growth, leaf mass ratio, leaf nitrogen concentration and photosynthesis, and increased root : shoot ratio and leaf condensed tannin concentrations. The competition treatment also resulted in increased leaf phenolic glycoside (PG) concentrations.
  • • 
    Aspen growth was negatively correlated with PG concentrations under low fertility with competition. The relationship between growth and its major determinants was also negatively related to foliar condensed tannins expressed as a proportion of tree mass, indicating an additional indirect cost of allocation to secondary metabolites.