Resistance and tolerance of Terminalia sericea trees to simulated herbivore damage under different soil nutrient and moisture conditions
Resource availability, degree of herbivore damage, genetic variability, and their interactions influence the allocation of investment by plants to resistance and tolerance traits. We evaluated the independent and interactive effects of soil nutrients and moisture, and simulated the effects of herbivore damage on condensed tannins (resistance) and growth/regrowth (tolerance) traits of Terminalia sericea, a deciduous tree in the Kalahari desert that constitutes a major component of livestock diet. We used a completely crossed randomized-block design experiment to examine the effects of nutrients, water availability, and herbivore damage on regrowth and resistance traits of T. sericea seedlings. Plant height, number of branches, internode length, leaf area, leaf mass for each seedling, combined weight of stems and twigs, and root mass were recorded. Condensed tannin concentrations were 22.5 and 21.5% higher under low nutrients and low soil moisture than under high nutrient and high water treatment levels. Tannin concentrations did not differ significantly between control and experimental seedlings 2 mo after simulated herbivore damage. Tannin concentrations correlated more strongly with growth traits under low- than under high-nutrient conditions. No trade-offs were detected among individual growth traits, nor between growth traits and condensed tannins. T. sericea appeared to invest more in both resistance and regrowth traits when grown under low-nutrient conditions. Investment in the resistance trait (condensed tannin) under high-nutrient conditions was minimal and, to a lesser degree, correlated with plant growth. These results suggest that T. sericea displays both resistance and tolerance strategies, and that the degree to which each is expressed is resource-dependent. © 2006 Springer Science + Business Media, Inc.