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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2002 Jan 22;99(2):1088-91. Epub 2002 Jan 15.

Impact of folivory on photosynthesis is greater than the sum of its holes.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 505 South Goodwin Avenue, Urbana, IL 61801, USA.

Abstract

The effects of herbivores on plant production and fitness may not relate directly to the quantity of biomass removed because folivory may alter photosynthetic rates at a considerable distance from the damaged tissue [Welter, S. C. (1989) in Insect-Plant Interactions, ed. Bernays, E. A. (CRC, Boca Raton), pp. 135-151.]. An impediment to understanding the effects of leaf damage on photosynthesis has been an inability to map photosynthetic function within a single leaf. We developed an instrument for imaging chlorophyll fluorescence and used it to map the effects of caterpillar feeding on whole-leaf photosynthesis in wild parsnip. The adverse effects of caterpillar feeding on photosynthesis were found to extend well beyond the areas of the leaflet in which caterpillars removed tissue. These "indirectly" affected areas remained impaired for at least 3 days after the caterpillars were removed and were six times as large as the area directly damaged by the caterpillars. Although photosynthesis in indirectly affected areas was reduced and not eliminated, these areas accounted for three times as much of the overall reduction in photosynthesis as the area removed by the caterpillars. The size of the indirect effects was positively correlated with defense-related synthesis of furanocoumarins, suggesting that costs of chemical defense may be one factor that accounts for the indirect effects of herbivory on plants.

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