Green spruce aphid infestations cause larger growth reductions to Sitka spruce under shade

S. Bertin, M. P. Perks, N. Straw, J. -M. Bertin, M. Mencuccini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Light availability and infestation by the green spruce aphid (Elatobium abietinum) are key factors affecting the growth of Sitka spruce (Picea sitchensis) seedlings under a mature tree canopy, but their combined effect on seedling growth has not previously been quantified. A controlled outdoor experiment in which light levels (high light (HL): 100%, intermediate light (IL): 24%) and aphid infestation (absence/presence) were manipulated was conducted over 2 years to look at the effects on seedling growth and biomass distribution patterns. Aphid population assessments showed a significantly increased population density under IL, with three to four times higher cumulative aphid densities than that under HL. Defoliation rates of infested seedlings were directly related to aphid density. Total seedling biomass was strongly reduced in IL, and aphid infestation caused additional reductions in the biomass of particular components of the seedlings. Dry weight (DW) of older (>= 1-year-old) needles in infested trees was significantly decreased in both years. Total root DW at the end of the second year was significantly affected by aphid infestation, and the reduction (14-18%) was similar in IL and HL treatments despite large differences in aphid density. Biomass distribution patterns in infested trees were similar to that of uninfested trees within each light treatment, indicating that the relative decreases in root biomass were accompanied by similar reductions in distribution to the above-ground parts of the seedlings. Leader extension growth of infested seedlings was reduced by 15-17% compared with uninfested seedlings under IL, whereas only a 2-3% reduction in leader extension of infested seedlings under HL was observed. The results showed that the response of seedlings to E. abietinum were primarily dependent on the light environment. The significant reduction caused by aphids on the total DW of older needles and roots, and on leader extension growth, does suggest the potential for effects to accumulate over time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1403-1414
Number of pages12
JournalTree physiology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • biomass distribution
  • Elatobium abietinum
  • light
  • Picea sitchensis


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