• carbon dioxide (CO2);
  • climate change;
  • global warming;
  • insect–plant interactions;
  • meta-analysis;
  • plant defences;
  • plant–animal interactions;
  • review


III.Herbivore responses to elevated CO2328
IV.Plant responses329
V.Searching for general responses to elevated CO2332
VI.Limitations and future studies334


We conducted the most extensive meta-analysis of plant and animal responses to elevated CO2 to date. We analysed > 5000 data points extracted from 270 papers published between 1979 and 2009. We examined the changes in 19 animal response variables to the main effect of elevated CO2. We found strong evidence for significant variation among arthropod orders and feeding guilds, including interactions in the direction of response. We also examined the main effects of elevated CO2 on: six plant growth and allocation responses, seven primary metabolite responses, eight secondary metabolite responses, and four physical defence responses. We examined these response variable changes under two-way and three-way interactions between CO2 and: soil nitrogen, ambient temperature, drought, light availability, photosynthetic pathway, reproductive system, plant growth rate, plant growth form, tissue type, and nitrogen fixation. In general we found smaller effect sizes for many response variables than have been previously reported. We also found that many of the oft-reported main effects of CO2 obscure the presence of significant two- and three-way interactions, which may help better explain the relationships between the response variables and elevated CO2.