Chronic herbivory negatively impacts cone and seed production, seed quality and seedling growth of susceptible pinyon pines

Rebecca C. Mueller, Brian D. Wade, Catherine A. Gehring, Thomas G. Whitham

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Although herbivory often reduces the reproduction of attacked trees, few studies have examined how naturally occurring insect-resistant and susceptible trees differ in their reproduction, nor have these effects been experimentally examined through long-term herbivore removals. In addition, few studies have examined the effects of herbivory on the quality of seeds produced and the implications of reduced seed quality on seedling establishment. We evaluated the impact of chronic herbivory by the stem-boring moth, Dioryctria albovittella, on cone and seed production of the pinyon pine (Pinus edulis) during two mast years. Three patterns emerged. First, moth herbivory was associated with reductions in cone production, viable seed production and seed mass. Specifically, pinyons susceptible to moth attack had 93-95% lower cone production, and surviving cones produced 31-37% fewer viable seeds, resulting in a 96-97% reduction in whole tree viable seed production. In addition, surviving seeds from susceptible trees had 18% lower mass than resistant trees. Second, long-term experimental removal of the herbivore resulted in increased rates of cone and seed production and quality, indicating that moth herbivory was the driver of these reductions. Third, seed size was positively associated with seed germination and seedling biomass and height, suggesting that trees suffering chronic herbivory produce poorer quality offspring. Thus, the resistance traits of pinyons can affect the quality of offspring, which in turn may affect subsequent seedling establishment and population dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)558-565
Number of pages8
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2005


  • Dioryctria albovittella
  • Pinus edulis
  • Seed mass
  • Seed viability
  • Seedling growth
  • Susceptibility and resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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