Timing of deacclimation affects the ability to recover from simulated winter herbivory

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The ability of Vaccinium myrtillus L. to recover from simulated winter herbivory has been investigated on different plants which had been exposed to three elevated temperatures (5 °C, 10 °C or 20 °C) for four weeks in a greenhouse environment. After herbivory, number and length of new aerial shoots and number of leaves/shoot increased faster in plants kept at 5 °C and 10 °C than in those kept at 20 °C. In the following autumn, however, only the shoot number differed between treatments, being greatest in plants of treatments at 5 °C and 10 °C and lowest at 20 °C and the outdoor control. Apparently the plants kept at 20 °C had already used their resources for growth before herbivory simulation, which reduced their recovery ability thereafter. In addition, the growing season was too short for the control plants to produce as many new shoots as the treatments. The results show that the recovery of V. myrtillus from winter herbivory is rapid if it occurs before growth has started. Hence the earlier onset of spring as a consequence of climate warming may not be fatal for the plant, unless the temperature increase triggers growth to start many months earlier than normal.

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