Latitudinal trends in foliar oils of eucalypts: Environmental correlates and diversity of chrysomelid leaf-beetles Academic Article uri icon


  • Eucalypts are characterized by their oleaginous foliage, yet no one has considered the universality of oil expression or its ecological associations and implications for biodiversity. Published literature on the oils of 66 eucalypts was combined with geographic distribution information contained in the Australian National Herbarium (ANHSIR) database to investigate continent-scale changes in oil yield and composition. The exposure to fire and rainfall of each eucalypt was considered in reference to Walker's data on fire frequency and Australian Bureau of Meteorology 97-year records of rainfall variability. Host collection records for 69 species of chrysomelid leaf-beetle were collated from entomologists to consider patterns of association with a subset of 16 eucalypts. Eucalypts endemic to the seasonally arid, sub-tropical to tropical climates of northern Australia have less oleaginous and aromatic leaves than species endemic to the mesic, temperate climates of the southern parts of the continent. Maximum oil yield and the concentrations of cineole and pinene were positively correlated with minimum fire interval but not with rainfall variability. Low oil contents in more northerly distributed species may facilitate persistence in highly fire-prone habitats. There were no patterns in the diversity of chrysomelid leaf-beetles with either the oil yield or the concentrations of 1,8-cineole or α-pinene in their hosts. When taken in consideration with the apparent strategy of eucalypts to tolerate insect herbivory, current evidence augurs against high concentrations of cineole or pinene acting alone as antibiotic plant secondary metabolites.

publication date

  • April 2010

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