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Coniferous trees resist invasion of their phloem and xylem by microorganisms through an induced defence reaction; resin-filled reaction zones are formed around the infections to stop the intrusion. The efficacy of the reaction is supposedly dependent on an ample supply of carbohydrates. Two hypotheses were formulated: (i) phloem starch reserves are consumed by the defence reaction; (ii) trees low in phloem starch are vulnerable to infection. To test the hypotheses, stem sections of Picea abies trees were mass inoculated with a pathogenic blue-stain fungus, Ceratoscystis polonica, associated with the spruce bark beetle Ips typographus. Stem starch concentration was manipulated through girdling. Mass inoculation lead to a significant decrease in phloem starch concentration. Starch reserves of single trees were not correlated to their resistance to infection. Translocation capacity of the phloem is suggested critical for the defence reaction.


The spruce bark beetle, Ips typographus, was induced to attack Norway spruce by means of pheromone dispensers. The degree of attack on each tree was recorded and the trees were later categorized as surviving or dying, according to the degree of sapwood blue-staining caused by the attacks. A threshold of successful attack was observed; i.e. above a certain number of attacks the trees were successfully invaded by the beetles and their mutualistic blue-stain fungi. The height of this threshold increased with increasing tree vigour, measured as the relative increment of the sapwood cross-sectional area.