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Using associational effects of European beech on Norway spruce to mitigate damage by a forest regeneration pest, the pine weevil Hylobius abietis

Amelia Tudoran, Helena Bylund, Göran Nordlander, Ion Oltean, Adriana Puentes
Forest ecology and management 2021 v.486 pp. 118980
Fagus sylvatica subsp. sylvatica, Hylobius abietis, Picea abies, administrative management, conifers, forest ecology, forest regeneration, insects, pests, seedlings, Europe
Forest regeneration can be compromised by insect damage to newly-planted conifer seedlings, with the pine weevil, Hylobius abietis, being the most economically important pest in Europe. Seedling protection strategies include physical barriers, silvicultural measures and insecticides, while the potential benefits of Associational Effects (AE) have been little explored. Associational Resistance (AR) or Susceptibility (AS) arise when neighbouring plants decrease or increase, respectively, the likelihood and extent of attack on a focal plant. We investigated the potential of European beech, Fagus sylvatica, to mediate AE for Norway spruce, Picea abies, seedlings against pine weevil damage. First, we examined the effects of neighbor identity on damage to P. abies at a small scale, using choice arenas in the lab. Then, in the field, we examined these effects at a larger scale using plots containing only Norway spruce, or both species. We found that P. abies seedlings were attacked and damaged less by weevils when beech was their close neighbor, relative to having another Norway spruce as a neighbor in the lab. Yet, no difference in damage between only spruce and mixed seedling plots was found in the field. Our results indicate that the susceptibility of P. abies to H. abietis can be influenced by neighbor identity, and effects can vary with inter-plant distance. In close proximity, the presence of the non-host F. sylvatica can alter pine weevil feeding behaviour and thus, has the potential to mediate AR. However, these associational effects appear not to provide enhanced seedling protection at a larger scale.