How does elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) affect plant–herbivore interactions? A field experiment and meta-analysis of CO2-mediated changes on plant chemistry and herbivore performance


Peter Stiling, tel. +1 813 974 3754, fax +1 813 974 3263, e-mail:


First, we report the results of the longest-known field study (9 years) to examine the effects of elevated carbon dioxide (CO2) on leaf miner densities in a scrub-oak community at Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Here, the densities of all leaf miner species (6) on all host species (3) were lower in every year in elevated CO2 than they were in ambient CO2. Second, meta-analyses were used to review the effects of elevated CO2 on both plants (n=59 studies) and herbivores (n=75 studies). The log of the response ratio was chosen as the metric to calculate effect sizes. Results showed that elevated CO2 significantly decreased herbivore abundance (−21.6%), increased relative consumption rates (+16.5%), development time (+3.87%) and total consumption (+9.2%), and significantly decreased relative growth rate (−8.3%), conversion efficiency (−19.9%) and pupal weight (−5.03%). No significant differences were observed among herbivore guilds. Host plants growing under enriched CO2 environments exhibited significantly larger biomass (+38.4%), increased C/N ratio (+26.57%), and decreased nitrogen concentration (−16.4%), as well as increased concentrations of tannins (+29.9%) and other phenolics. Effects of changes on plant primary and secondary chemistry due to elevated CO2 and consequences for herbivore growth and development are discussed.