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Keywords:

  • C3;
  • C4;
  • elevated CO2;
  • plant/fungi interactions;
  • plant/insect interactions

ABSTRACT

The effects of elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration on plant-fungi and plant-insect interactions were studied in an emergent marsh in the Chesapeake Bay. Stands of the C3 sedge Scirpus olneyi Grey, and the C4 grass Spartina patens (Ait.) Muhl. have been exposed to elevated atmospheric CO2 concentrations during each growing season since 1987. In August 1991 the severities of fungal infections and insect infestations were quantified. Shoot nitrogen concentration ([N]) and water content (WC) were determined. In elevated concentrations of atmospheric CO2, 32% fewer S. olneyi plants were infested by insects, and there was a 37% reduction in the severity of a pathogenic fungal infection, compared with plants grown in ambient CO2 concentrations. S. olneyi also had reduced [N], which correlated positively with the severities of fungal infections and insect infestations. Conversely, S. patens had increased WC but unchanged [N] in elevated concentrations of atmospheric CO2 and the severity of fungal infection increased. Elevated atmospheric CO2 concentration increased or decreased the severity of fungal infection depending on at least two interacting factors, [N] and WC; but it did not change the number of plants that were infected with fungi. In contrast, the major results for insects were that the number of plants infected with insects decreased, and that the amount of tissue that each insect ate also decreased.