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Metabolomic responses of indigenous and nonindigenous plants to deer exclosure fencing and deer herbivory in a suburban forest
  • Janet A. Morrison,
  • Melkamu Woldemariam
Janet A. Morrison
The College of New Jersey

Corresponding Author:morrisja@tcnj.edu

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Melkamu Woldemariam
The College of New Jersey
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Trees and shrubs in suburban forest understories can be subject to chronic herbivory from abundant white-tailed deer. An undocumented consequence of this stress may be shifts in secondary metabolite production associated with defense. We aimed to learn whether plants protected from deer exhibited different metabolomic profiles compared to those exposed to deer. We tested the indigenous species Nyssa sylvatica and Lindera benzoin and the invasive, nonindigenous species Rosa multiflora and Euonymus alatus within a suburban forest understory in New Jersey, USA, in unfenced plots and plots fenced for 5.3 years. We did untargeted metabolomics by sampling leaves from three plants of each species per 6-7 fenced and unfenced plots, conducting chloroform-methanol extractions followed by LC-MS/MS, and conducting statistical analysis on Metaboanalyst. We also scored each species for deer browse frequency over eight years, and compared their heights and percent cover between unfenced and fenced plots. The analysis identified 2,333 metabolites. The global metabolome diverged significantly between fenced and unfenced plots pooled across species, but for individual species only N. sylvatica exhibited a significant fencing effect. Nyssa sylvatica was one of the most browsed species and was the only one with both greater cover and height in fenced plots, suggesting greater susceptibility to deer browsing. The metabolites most responsible for the fenced/unfenced divergence also were affected by the species-fencing combination, with increases in certain species but decreases in others. The most significant metabolites that were upregulated in fenced plants include some involved in defense-related metabolic pathways, e.g. monoterpenoid biosynthesis. Further study of more species in multiple sites is needed to learn how common metabolomic responses to deer are among forest species, how the intensity of deer pressure influences the responses, which types of metabolites are most affected, and if there are ecological consequences at the physiological, population, and/or community levels.
06 Jan 2022Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
07 Jan 2022Submission Checks Completed
07 Jan 2022Assigned to Editor
11 Jan 2022Reviewer(s) Assigned
02 Mar 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
07 Mar 2022Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
11 Jun 20221st Revision Received
14 Jun 2022Assigned to Editor
14 Jun 2022Submission Checks Completed
14 Jun 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
17 Jun 2022Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
29 Sep 20222nd Revision Received
30 Sep 2022Submission Checks Completed
30 Sep 2022Assigned to Editor
30 Sep 2022Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
05 Oct 2022Editorial Decision: Accept