Comparison of defense-associated secondary metabolites across varying level of deer herbivory

Project Overview
Research Core Areas: 
Project Abstract: 
Following up on findings of a 2017 research project conducted by EEB 348 Forest Ecosystem students (Agee et al. 2017), we propose to quantify sapling chemical defense as a response to deer herbivory. Plants that evolve with mammalian herbivores develop physical mechanisms to deter mammalian browsing, e.g., spines and thorns. However, northern hardwood forest tree species likely did not evolve with the high deer densities found today in Northern Michigan and therefore lack these physical defenses. Chemically, plants can synthesize defense-associated secondary metabolites in response to insect herbivory, but more research is needed to better understand metabolites associated with mammalian browsing, specifically by white-tailed deer. Data from Agee et al. (2017) yielded a positive correlation between phenolic compounds and time since the sapling was browsed (a measure of browsing intensity). In order to better understand these findings, we propose to quantify defense-associated compounds in commonly browsed sapling species and compare types and concentrations of compounds, 1) in mammalian-browse vs. unbrowsed saplings, and 2) across varying levels of browse intensity.
Investigator Info
Funding agency: 
UM Flint grant (Mott Foundation) to fund summer student research (stipend only)
Years research project active: