Herbivores can damage plant productivity and fitness because plants have improved defense mechanisms such as physical barriers, association with other organisms such as ants, and chemical defense. In that, separate plant species produce different chemical molecules. Chemical compounds involved in plant defense can act in several facts: decreased palatability, like a poison, such as a stunner, and increased gene defense expression, among others. In this chapter, we approach several examples of chemical molecules produced by plants to defend themselves, including biochemical metabolic pathways, as well as ecological and evolutive implications.
Part of the book: Herbivores
Herbivores can damage plant productivity and fitness; plants have improved defensive traits, such as chemical defenses. Plant species produce specific defensive traits in response of diverse risk factor generated by herbivores. In this chapter, we analyze and compare the defensive traits used by plants in different habitats: aquatic ecosystems, temperate forest, and rainforest. In aquatic environments, the number of herbivores is scarce, and plants develop biomass and restrict defensive compound production. At the terrestrial environment, plants need to accumulate defensive traits for an eventual attack. But the number and quantity of those traits depend on biotic and abiotic factors. In temperate forest, plants have a low growth, and herbivore diversity is low, because there are a few number of defensive traits but in great quantity to guarantee plant survival. In contrast, at tropical forest there is a great herbivore diversity, and plants have a quick growth; thus they develop a great variety of defensive traits. There are substantial differences in plant defensive strategies at different environments. Usually, the aquatic plants use water-soluble and diffusible compounds; plants in rainforest use a plethora of chemical defenses, and in temperate forest, plants utilize physical barriers, resins, and terpenes.
Part of the book: Pure and Applied Biogeography