The effect of allometric partitioning on herbivory tolerance in four species in South China.
Herbivory tolerance can offset the negative effects of herbivory on plants and plays an important role in both immigration and population establishment. Biomass reallocation is an important potential mechanism of herbivory tolerance. To understand how biomass allocation affects plant herbivory tolerance, it is necessary to distinguish the biomass allocations resulting from environmental gradients or plant growth. There is generally a tight balance between the amounts of biomass invested in different organs, which must be analyzed by means of an allometric model. The allometric exponent is not affected by individual growth and can reflect the changes in biomass allocation patterns of different parts. Therefore, the allometric exponent was chosen to study the relationship between biomass allocation pattern and herbivory tolerance. We selected four species (Wedelia chinensis, Wedelia trilobata, Merremia hederacea, and Mikania micrantha), two of which are invasive species and two of which are accompanying native species, and established three herbivory levels (0%, 25% and 50%) to compare differences in allometry. The biomass allocation in stems was negatively correlated with herbivory tolerance, while that in leaves was positively correlated with herbivory tolerance. Furthermore, the stability of the allometric exponent was related to tolerance, indicating that plants with the ability to maintain their biomass allocation patterns are more tolerant than those without this ability, and the tendency to allocate biomass to leaves rather than to stems or roots helps increase this tolerance. The allometric exponent was used to remove the effects of individual development on allocation pattern, allowing the relationship between biomass allocation and herbivory tolerance to be more accurately explored. This research used an allometric model to fit the nonlinear process of biomass partitioning during the growth and development of plants and provides a new understanding of the relationship between biomass allocation and herbivory tolerance.