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Putting plant resistance traits on the map: a test of the idea that plants are better defended at lower latitudes


Moles, AT and Wallis, IR and Foley, WJ and Warton, DI and Stegen, JC and Bisigato, AJ and Cella-Pizarro, L and Clark, CJ and Cohen, PS and Cornwell, WK and Edwards, W and Ejrnaes, R and Gonzales-Ojeda, T and Graae, BJ and Hay, G and Lumbwe, FC and Magana-Rodriguez, B and Moore, BD and Peri, PL and Poulsen, JR and Veldtman, R and von Zeipel, H and Andrew, NR and Boulter, SL and Borer, ET and Campon, FF and Coll, M and Farji-Brener, AG and De Gabriel, J and Jurado, E and Kyhn, LA and Low, B and Mulder, CPH and Reardon-Smith, K and Rodriguez-Velazquez, J and Seabloom, EW and Vesk, PA and van Cauter, A and Waldram, MS and Zheng, Z and Blendinger, PG and Enquist, BJ and Facelli, JM and Knight, T and Majer, JD and Martinez-Ramos, M and McQuillan, P and Prior, LD, Putting plant resistance traits on the map: a test of the idea that plants are better defended at lower latitudes, New Phytologist, 191, (3) pp. 777-788. ISSN 0028-646X (2011) [Refereed Article]

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DOI: doi:10.1111/j.1469-8137.2011.03732.x


It has long been believed that plant species from the tropics have higher levels of traits associated with resistance to herbivores than do species from higher latitudes. A meta-analysis recently showed that the published literature does not support this theory. However, the idea has never been tested using data gathered with consistent methods from a wide range of latitudes. We quantified the relationship between latitude and a broad range of chemical and physical traits across 301 species from 75 sites world-wide. Six putative resistance traits, including tannins, the concentration of lipids (an indicator of oils, waxes and resins), and leaf toughness were greater in highlatitude species. Six traits, including cyanide production and the presence of spines, were unrelated to latitude. Only ash content (an indicator of inorganic substances such as calcium oxalates and phytoliths) and the properties of species with delayed greening were higher in the tropics. Our results do not support the hypothesis that tropical plants have higher levels of resistance traits than do plants from higher latitudes. If anything, plants have higher resistance toward the poles. The greater resistance traits of high-latitude species might be explained by the greater cost of losing a given amount of leaf tissue in low-productivity environments.

Item Details

Item Type:Refereed Article
Research Division:Biological Sciences
Research Group:Ecology
Research Field:Terrestrial ecology
Objective Division:Environmental Management
Objective Group:Management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean environments
Objective Field:Assessment and management of Antarctic and Southern Ocean ecosystems
UTAS Author:McQuillan, P (Mr Peter McQuillan)
UTAS Author:Prior, LD (Dr Lynda Prior)
ID Code:72406
Year Published:2011
Web of Science® Times Cited:124
Deposited By:Plant Science
Deposited On:2011-08-26
Last Modified:2020-02-11

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