Submitted to: Journal of Chemical Ecology
Publication Type: Peer reviewed journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/28/2007
Publication Date: 9/25/2007
Citation: Fredrickson, E.L., Estell, R.E., Remmenga, M.D. 2007. Volatile compounds on the leaf surface of intact and regrowth tarbush (Flourensia cernua DC) canopies. Journal of Chemical Ecology. 33:1867-1875. Interpretive Summary: Movement of shrubs into arid grasslands is a concern to both livestock producers and ecologists. Shrubs often contain chemicals that cause them to be unpalatable to livestock and wildlife. Our previous work revealed that intake of tarbush by livestock was negatively related to the concentration of volatile chemicals on the leaf surface. Because concentrations of compounds such as terpenes often change with plant age and phenology, our objective was to examine the effect of changing the vegetative state of tarbush on concentration of these chemicals. Plants with all above-ground biomass removed were allowed to grow back the following year and compared to unaltered plants. Of the 87 compounds present on tarbush leaves, 35 were greater in canopy samples and 16 were greater in regrowth samples. However, total concentration of volatiles on canopy leaves tended to be lower than for regrowth. Greater total volatile compounds on repsrouts suggests they may be less vulnerable to herbivory than intact tarbush. Thus, changing the vegetative state of tarbush by mechanical biomass removal may not be a suitable practice to increase palatability for livestock.
Technical Abstract: Shrub expansion into desert grasslands is a serious problem resulting in loss of forage and rangeland productivity. Flourensia cernua DC (tarbush) is one such shrub contributing to the decline of Chihuahuan Desert grasslands. Our previous research has shown tarbush consumption by sheep and goats to be negatively related to leaf surface concentration of individual terpenes and epicuticular wax. Concentrations of compounds such as terpenes often change with plant age and phenology. Our objective was to examine the effect of altering the vegetative state of tarbush on volatile chemicals. Ninety tarbush plants were randomly selected and all biomass within 10 cm of the soil surface was removed from 45 plants during winter dormancy. Leaves were collected the following summer during active growth from the canopy of intact controls and resprouts. Leaf surface volatiles were analyzed by gas chromatography-mass spectroscopy and subjected to univariate analysis of variance and stepwise discriminate analysis. Of the 87 compounds present on tarbush leaves, 35 were greater in canopy samples and 16 were greater in regrowth samples based on univariate analysis (P < 0.05). Mean concentration of total volatiles on canopy leaves tended to be less (P = 0.062) than that of regrowth (3642 vs. 4684 'g/g DM). Nine compounds in the discriminant analysis ('-muurolene, iso-borneol, unknown#6, p-cymen-8-ol, unknown#7, sabinene, '-caryophyllene, '-cadinene, and '-copaene) explained 95% of the variation between canopy and regrowth samples. Lower cumulative concentration of volatile compounds in canopy than regrowth samples suggests repsrouts may be less vulnerable to herbivory than intact tarbush.