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Oecologia

Weathering the storm: how lodgepole pine trees survive mountain pine beetle outbreaks.


PMID 28421324

Abstract

Recent mountain pine beetle outbreaks in western North America killed millions of lodgepole pine trees, leaving few survivors. However, the mechanism underlying the ability of trees to survive bark beetle outbreaks is unknown, but likely involve phytochemicals such as monoterpenes and fatty acids that can drive beetle aggregation and colonization on their hosts. Thus, we conducted a field survey of beetle-resistant lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta) trees to retrospectively deduce whether these phytochemicals underlie their survival by comparing their chemistry to that of non-attacked trees in the same stands. We also compared beetle attack characteristics between resistant and beetle-killed trees. Beetle-killed trees had more beetle attacks and longer ovipositional galleries than resistant trees, which also lacked the larval establishment found in beetle-killed trees. Resistant trees contained high amounts of toxic and attraction-inhibitive compounds and low amounts of pheromone-precursor and synergist compounds. During beetle host aggregation and colonization, these compounds likely served three critical roles in tree survival. First, low amounts of pheromone-precursor (α-pinene) and synergist (mycrene, terpinolene) compounds reduced or prevented beetles from attracting conspecifics to residual trees. Second, high amounts of 4-allyanisole further inhibited beetle attraction to its pheromone. Finally, high amounts of toxic limonene, 3-carene, 4-allyanisole, α-linolenic acid, and linoleic acid inhibited beetle gallery establishment and oviposition. We conclude that the variation of chemotypic expression of local plant populations can have profound ecological consequences including survival during insect outbreaks.

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