CO2-mediated changes in aspen chemistry: effects on gypsy moth performance and susceptibility to virus


Richard L. Lindroth fax +1/


We investigated the effects of long-term CO2 enrichment on foliar chemistry of quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) and the consequences of chemical changes for performance of the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) and susceptibility of the gypsy moth to a nucleopolyhedrosis virus (NPV). Foliage was collected from outdoor open-top chambers and fed to insects in a quarantine rearing facility. Under enriched CO2, levels of leaf nitrogen declined marginally, levels of starch and phenolic glycosides did not change, and levels of condensed tannins increased. Long-term bioassays revealed reduced growth (especially females), prolonged development and increased consumption in larvae fed high-CO2 foliage but no significant differences in final pupal weights or female fecundity. Short-term bioassays showed weaker, and sex-specific, effects of CO2 treatment on larval performance. Correlation analyses revealed strong, negative associations between insect performance and phenolic glycoside concentrations, independent of CO2 treatment. Larval susceptibility to NPV did not differ between CO2 treatments, suggesting that effects of this natural enemy on gypsy moths are buffered from CO2-induced changes in foliar chemistry. Our results emphasize that the impact of enriched CO2 on plant–insect interactions will be determined not only by how concentrations of plant compounds are altered, but also by the relevance of particular compounds for insect fitness. This work also underscores the need for studies of genetic variation in plant responses to enriched CO2 and long-term population-level responses of insects to CO2-induced changes in host quality.