Volatile monoterpene 'fingerprints’ of resinous 𝘗𝘳𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘶𝘮 tree species in the Amazon Rainforest


Volatile terpenoid resins represent a diverse group of plant defense chemicals involved in defense against herbivory, abiotic stress, and communication. However, their composition in tropical forests remains poorly characterized. As a part of tree identification, the ‘smell’ of damaged trunks is widely used, but is highly subjective. Here, we analyzed trunk volatile monoterpene emissions from 15 species of the genus Protium in the central Amazon. By normalizing the abundances of 28 monoterpenes, 9 monoterpene ‘fingerprint’ patterns emerged, characterized by a distinct dominant monoterpene. While 4 of the ‘fingerprint’ patterns were composed of multiple species, 5 were composed of a single species. Moreover, among individuals of the same species, 6 species had a single ‘fingerprint’ pattern, while 9 species had two or more ‘fingerprint’ patterns among in- dividuals. A comparison of ‘fingerprints’ between 2015 and 2017 from 15 individuals generally showed excellent agreement, demonstrating a strong dependence on species identity, but not time of collection. The results are consistent with a previous study that found multiple divergent copies of monoterpene synthase enzymes in Protium. We conclude that the monoterpene ‘fingerprint’ database has important implications for constraining Protium species identification and phylogenetic relationships and enhancing understanding of physiological and ecological functions of resins and their potential commercial applications.