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Involvement of allelopathy in inhibition of understory growth in red pine forests

Kato-Noguchi, Hisashi, Kimura, Fukiko, Ohno, Osamu, Suenaga, Kiyotake
Journal of plant physiology 2017 v.218 pp. 66-73
Lolium multiflorum, Pinus densiflora, allelopathy, coniferous forests, defoliation, forest litter, growth retardation, herbaceous plants, resin acids, solar radiation, understory
Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora Sieb. et Zucc.) forests are characterized by sparse understory vegetation although sunlight intensity on the forest floor is sufficient for undergrowth. The possible involvement of pine allelopathy in the establishment of the sparse understory vegetation was investigated. The soil of the red pine forest floor had growth inhibitory activity on six test plant species including Lolium multiflorum, which was observed at the edge of the forest but not in the forest. Two growth inhibitory substances were isolated from the soil and characterized to be 15-hydroxy-7-oxodehydroabietate and 7-oxodehydroabietic acid. Those compounds are probably formed by degradation process of resin acids. Resin acids are produced by pine and delivered into the soil under the pine trees through balsam and defoliation. Threshold concentrations of 15-hydroxy-7-oxodehydroabietate and 7-oxodehydroabietic acid for the growth inhibition of L. multiflorum were 30 and 10μM, respectively. The concentrations of 15-hydroxy-7-oxodehydroabietate and 7-oxodehydroabietic acid in the soil were 312 and 397μM, respectively, which are sufficient concentrations to cause the growth inhibition because of the threshold. These results suggest that those compounds are able to work as allelopathic agents and may prevent from the invasion of herbaceous plants into the forests by inhibiting their growth. Therefore, allelopathy of red pine may be involved in the formation of the sparse understory vegetation.