Physiological responses to folivory and phytopathogens in a riparian tree, Brabejum stellatifolium, native to the fynbos biome of South Africa
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The canopies of many tree species sustain a large diversity of folivorous arthropods and phytopathogenic fungi. These organisms are thought to influence overall tree and stand productivity. Leaf diseases caused by Phyllosticta owaniana and Periconiella velutina, phytopathogenic fungi commonly found on the native riparian tree Brabejum stellatifolium (wild almond), like any other leaf disease, can potentially reduce a plant’s photosynthetic efficiency. In addition to these two phytopathogens, the weevils Setapion provinciale and Setapion quantillum are abundant in wild almond canopies. Despite their pervasive occurrence, the impacts of these phytopathogens and arthropods on host tree leaf physiology have not been examined. The gas exchange response of wild almond leaves to phytopathogens and folivore damage was assessed. Leaf nitrogen, phosphorus and water content were also determined. Declines in photosynthetic rates and other physiological parameters were associated with increasing damage severity by weevils and phytopathogens in leaves of B. stellatifolium. Nitrogen and phosphorus contents were negatively associated with disease severity. Water and phosphorus contents were also negatively correlated with increased weevil damage, while nitrogen content was positively correlated with it. The observed responses of B. stellatifolium metabolic functioning to fungal pathogen and folivory indicate a possibility of suppressed wild populations of wild almond.
- RESEARCH: Esler K