Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Plant Defenses Against Herbivory: the Carbon Nutrient Balance Hypothesis


"The carbon:nutrient balance hypothesis, also known as the environmental constraint hypothesis or Carbon Nutrient Balance Model (CNBM), states that the various types of plant defenses are responses to variations in the levels of nutrients in the environment. This hypothesis predicts the Carbon/Nitrogen ratio in plants determines which secondary metabolites will be synthesized. For example, plants growing in nitrogen-poor soils will use carbon-based defenses (mostly digestibility reducers), while those growing in low-carbon environments (such as shady conditions) are more likely to produce nitrogen-based toxins. The hypothesis further predicts that plants can change their defenses in response to changes in nutrients. For example, if plants are grown in low-nitrogen conditions, then these plants will implement a defensive strategy composed of constitutive carbon-based defenses. If nutrient levels subsequently increase, by for example the addition of fertilizers, these carbon-based defenses will decrease."

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