Simulated herbivory advances autumn phenology in Acer rubrum

  • Forkner R
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To determine the degree to which herbivory contributes to phenotypic variation in autumn phenology for deciduous trees, red maple (Acer rubrum) branches were subjected to low and high levels of simulated herbivory and surveyed at the end of the season to assess abscission and degree of autumn coloration. Overall, branches with simulated herbivory abscised ∼7 % more leaves at each autumn survey date than did control branches within trees. While branches subjected to high levels of damage showed advanced phenology, abscission rates did not differ from those of undamaged branches within trees because heavy damage induced earlier leaf loss on adjacent branch nodes in this treatment. Damaged branches had greater proportions of leaf area colored than undamaged branches within trees, having twice the amount of leaf area colored at the onset of autumn and having ∼16 % greater leaf area colored in late October when nearly all leaves were colored. When senescence was scored as the percent of all leaves abscised and/or colored, branches in both treatments reached peak senescence earlier than did control branches within trees: dates of 50 % senescence occurred 2.5 days earlier for low herbivory branches and 9.7 days earlier for branches with high levels of simulated damage. These advanced rates are of the same time length as reported delays in autumn senescence and advances in spring onset due to climate warming. Thus, results suggest that should insect damage increase as a consequence of climate change, it may offset a lengthening of leaf life spans in some tree species.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Acer rubrum
  • Autumn phenology
  • Herbivory
  • Senescence

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  • Rebecca E. Forkner

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