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Climate change and cereal aphids: the relative effects of increasing CO2 and temperature on aphid population dynamics


Jonathan A. Newman. e-mail:


Experimental evidence regarding the responses of cereal aphids to rising atmospheric CO2 has been ambiguous. Some studies suggest increased population sizes under future CO2 levels, others suggest decreased population sizes, and still others suggest little or no difference. Recently, Newman et al. (2003) constructed a general mathematical model of the aphid–grass interaction to investigate whether or not we should, in fact, expect a general aphid response to rising CO2. They concluded that aphid populations are likely to be larger under future CO2 concentrations if soil N levels are high, the aphid species' nitrogen requirement is low and the aphid species' density-dependent response in winged morph production is weak. In that model, and in field experiments, CO2 concentration influences aphid population dynamics through the effect it has on plant quality. However, future CO2 concentrations are also likely to be accompanied by higher ambient temperatures, a combination that has received little focus to date. In the present paper, the Newman et al. model is used to consider the combined effects of increased CO2 concentrations and temperature on aphid population sizes. It is concluded that, when both factors are elevated, aphid population dynamics will be more similar to current ambient conditions than expected from the results of experiments studying either factor alone. This result has important implications for future experimentation.