Compositional Changes in Foliage Phenolics with Plant Age, a Natural Experiment in Boreal Forests
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionJournal of Chemical Ecology. 2017, 43 (9), 920-928. 10.1007/s10886-017-0881-5
The composition of plant secondary metabolites (PSMs) extensively impacts ecosystem functioning. It is vital that we understand temporal patterns in the plants’ allocation of resources to PSMs, particularly those influenced by human activity. Existing data are insufficient in the long-term perspective of perennial plants (age or ontogeny). We analysed phenolic concentrations in foliage from birch (Betula pubescens Ehr.) considered to be undamaged and growing on 5, 10 and 15 years old clear-cuts in two boreal forest landscapes in Norway, sampled at the peak of the growing season. In sum, low molecular weight phenolic concentrations decreased with age. Apart from one apigenin glycoside, the low molecular weight phenolics co-varied similarly at all ages, suggesting a lack of temporal compound-specific prioritisation of this group. In contrast, the concentration of MeOH-soluble condensed tannins increased with age. The compositional shift fits well with several hypotheses that may provide proximate explanations for age patterns in PSM allocations, including both resource constraints and external pressures. Regardless of these explanations, our study adds an important perennial perspective (plant age) to temporal PSM patterns already well-known in boreal plant phenology (foliage age).