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Latitudinal variation in seed predation correlates with latitudinal variation in seed defensive and nutritional traits in a widespread oak species

Abstract : Background and Aims Classic theory on geographical gradients in plant-herbivore interactions assumes that herbivore pressure and plant defences increase towards warmer and more stable climates found at lower latitudes. However, the generality of these expectations has been recently called into question by conflicting empirical evidence. One possible explanation for this ambiguity is that most studies have reported on patterns of either herbivory or plant defences whereas few have measured both, thus preventing a full understanding of the implications of observed patterns for plant-herbivore interactions. In addition, studies have typically not measured climatic factors affecting plant-herbivore interactions, despite their expected influence on plant and herbivore traits. Methods Here we tested for latitudinal variation in insect seed predation and seed traits putatively associated with insect attack across 36 Quercus robur populations distributed along a 20 degrees latitudinal gradient. We then further investigated the associations between climatic factors, seed traits and seed predation to test for climate-based mechanisms of latitudinal variation in seed predation. Key Results We found strong but contrasting latitudinal clines in seed predation and seed traits, whereby seed predation increased whereas seed phenolics and phosphorus decreased towards lower latitudes. We also found a strong direct association between temperature and seed predation, with the latter increasing towards warmer climates. In addition, temperature was negatively associated with seed traits, with populations at warmer sites having lower levels of total phenolics and phosphorus. In turn, these negative associations between temperature and seed traits led to a positive indirect association between temperature and seed predation. Conclusions These results help unravel how plant-herbivore interactions play out along latitudinal gradients and expose the role of climate in driving these outcomes through its dual effects on plant defences and herbivores. Accordingly, this emphasizes the need to account for abiotic variation while testing concurrently for latitudinal variation in plant traits and herbivore pressure.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-02913619
Contributor : Marion Desailly <>
Submitted on : Monday, August 10, 2020 - 10:02:53 AM
Last modification on : Thursday, September 9, 2021 - 9:38:07 AM

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Xoaquín Moreira, Luis Abdala-Roberts, Hans Henrik Bruun, Felisa Covelo, Pieter de Frenne, et al.. Latitudinal variation in seed predation correlates with latitudinal variation in seed defensive and nutritional traits in a widespread oak species. Annals of Botany, Oxford University Press (OUP), 2020, 125 (6), pp.881-890. ⟨10.1093/aob/mcz207⟩. ⟨hal-02913619⟩

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