Simulated winter browsing may lead to induced susceptibility of willows to beavers in spring
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionCanadian journal of zoology 84(2006), No. 12, p. 1733-1742 http://dx.doi.org/10.1139/Z06-177
Browsing may lead to an induced resistance or susceptibility of the plant to the herbivore. We tested the effect of winter browsing by Eurasian beavers (Castor fiber L., 1758) on food quality of holme willows (Salix dasyclados Wimm.) in and after the following growth season. Shrubs were pruned in February, and new shoots from these (cut) shrubs were compared with those of untreated (uncut) ones in May and November. The shoots were analysed for dry matter, nitrogen, acid detergent fibre, and total phenolics. In May, the leaves from the cut treatment had a better food quality (more water, more nitrogen, and less phenolics) than those from the uncut one. There was in part also a systemic response, with lower total phenolics in both the cut and untreated parts of pruned shrubs (uncut–cut) than in the uncut shrubs. In November, we did not find significant differences in biochemistry of bark among cut, uncut, or uncut–cut treatments. These results are in accordance with a cafeteria experiment in the field: in May the beavers preferred shoots from the cut treatment, but in November they showed no preference. The results suggest that willows invest in compensatory growth rather than a defence response early in the regrowing phase.