Chemical polymorphism may contribute to variation in browsing damage by mammalian herbivores. Earlier, we demonstrated that essential oil concentration in juniper, Juniperus communis, was negatively associated with herbivore browsing. The aim of the present study was to characterize the volatile chemical composition of browsed and non-browsed J. communis. By using either gas chromatography with flame ionization detection (GC-FID) or an electronic nose device, we could separate sheep-browsed or non-browsed juniper shrubs by their essential oil pattern and complex odor matrix. The main components of the essential oil from J. communis were monoterpenes. We distinguished three chemotypes, dominated either by α-pinene, sabinene, or δ-3-carene. Shrubs belonging to the α-pinene- or sabinene-dominated groups were browsed, whereas all individuals with the δ-3-carene chemotype were unused by the local herbivores. The electronic nose also separated the browsed and non-browsed shrubs indicating that their odor matrix could guide sheep browsing. Responses of sheep could integrate the post-ingestive effects of plant secondary metabolites with sensory experience that stems from odor-phytotoxin interactions. Chemotype diversity could increase the survival rate in the present population of J. communis as certain shrubs could benefit from relatively better chemical protection against the herbivores.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics