Sagebrush (Artemisia spp.) in North America is an abundant native plant species that is ecologically and evolutionarily adapted to have a diverse array of biologically active chemicals. Several of these chemicals, specifically polyphenols, have antioxidant activity that may act as biomarkers of biotic or abiotic stress. This study investigated the spatial variation of antioxidant capacity, as well as the relationship between a mammalian herbivore and antioxidant capacity in Wyoming big sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata wyomingensis). We quantified and compared total polyphenols and antioxidant capacity of leaf extracts from sagebrush plants from different spatial scales and at different levels of browsing by a specialist mammalian herbivore, the pygmy rabbit (Brachylagus idahoensis). We found that antioxidant capacity of sagebrush extracts was positively correlated with total polyphenol content. Antioxidant capacity varied spatially within and among plants. Antioxidant capacity in sagebrush was not related to either browsing intensity or duration of association with rabbits. We propose that the patterns of antioxidant capacity observed in sagebrush may be a result of spatial variation in abiotic stress experienced by sagebrush. Antioxidants could therefore provide a biomarker of environmental stress for sagebrush that could aid in management and conservation of this plant in the threatened sagebrush steppe.
This document was originally published by Monte L. Bean Life Science Museum, Brigham Young University in Western North American Naturalist. This work is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License. Details regarding the use of this work can be found at: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/. doi: 10.3398/064.075.0109
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