Frontiers in Plant Science
Environmental stresses not only influence production of plant metabolites but could also modify their resorption during leaf senescence. The production-resorption dynamics of polyphenolic tannins, a class of defense compound whose ecological role extends beyond tissue senescence, could amplify the influence of climate on ecosystem processes. We studied the quantity, chemical composition, and tissue-association of tannins in green and freshly-senesced leaves of Quercus rubra exposed to different temperature (Warming and No Warming) and precipitation treatments (Dry, Ambient, Wet) at the Boston-Area Climate Experiment (BACE) in Massachusetts, USA. Climate influenced not only the quantity of tannins, but also their molecular composition and cell-wall associations. Irrespective of climatic treatments, tannin composition in Q. rubra was dominated by condensed tannins (CTs, proanthocyanidins). When exposed to Dry and Ambient*Warm conditions, Q. rubra produced higher quantities of tannins that were less polymerized. In contrast, under favorable conditions (Wet), tannins were produced in lower quantities, but the CTs were more polymerized. Further, even as the overall tissue tannin content declined, the content of hydrolysable tannins (HTs) increased under Wet treatments. The molecular composition of tannins influenced their content in senesced litter. Compared to the green leaves, the content of HTs decreased in senesced leaves across treatments, whereas the CT content was similar between green and senesced leaves in Wet treatments that produced more polymerized tannins. The content of total tannins in senesced leaves was higher in Warming treatments under both dry and ambient precipitation treatments. Our results suggest that, though climate directly influenced the production of tannins in green tissues (and similar patterns were observed in the senesced tissue), the influence of climate on tannin content of senesced tissue was partly mediated by the effect on the chemical composition of tannins. These different climatic impacts on leaves over the course of a growing season may alter forest dynamics, not only in decomposition and nutrient cycling dynamics, but also in herbivory dynamics.
Top SM, Preston CM, Dukes JS and Tharayil N (2017) Climate Influences the Content and Chemical Composition of Foliar Tannins in Green and Senesced Tissues of Quercus rubra. Front. Plant Sci. 8:423. doi: 10.3389/fpls.2017.00423