Get access

Consequences of simultaneous elevation of carbon dioxide and temperature for plant–herbivore interactions: a metaanalysis


Elena L. Zvereva, tel. +358 2 3335492, fax +358 2 3336550, e-mail:


The effects of elevated carbon dioxide on plant–herbivore interactions have been summarized in a number of narrative reviews and metaanalyses, while accompanying elevation of temperature has not received sufficient attention. The goal of our study is to search, by means of metaanalysis, for a general pattern in responses of herbivores, and plant characteristics important for herbivores, to simultaneous experimental increase of carbon dioxide and temperature (ECET) in comparison with both ambient conditions and responses to elevated CO2 (EC) and temperature (ET) applied separately. Our database includes 42 papers describing studies of 31 plant species and seven herbivore species. Nitrogen concentration and C/N ratio in plants decreased under both EC and ECET treatments, whereas ET had no significant effect. Concentrations of nonstructural carbohydrates and phenolics increased in EC, decreased in ET and did not change in ECET treatments, whereas terpenes did not respond to EC but increased in both ET and ECET; leaf toughness increased in both EC and ECET. Responses of defensive secondary compounds to treatments differed between woody and green tissues as well as between gymnosperm and angiosperm plants. Insect herbivore performance was adversely affected by EC, favoured by ET, and not modified by ECET. Our analysis allowed to distinguish three types of relationships between CO2 and temperature elevation: (1) responses to EC do not depend on temperature (nitrogen, C/N, leaf toughness, phenolics in angiosperm leaves), (2) responses to EC are mitigated by ET (sugars and starch, terpenes in needles of gymnosperms, insect performance) and (3) effects emerge only under ECET (nitrogen in gymnosperms, and phenolics and terpenes in woody tissues). This result indicates that conclusions of CO2 elevation studies cannot be directly extrapolated to a more realistic climate change scenario. The predicted negative effects of CO2 elevation on herbivores are likely to be mitigated by temperature increase.