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Keywords:

  • carbon dioxide enrichment;
  • homoptera:aphididae;
  • hymenoptera:braconidae;
  • model;
  • tri-trophic interaction

Abstract

Biologists have been challenged to envisage the likely consequences of increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, and the suite of accompanying environmental changes (e.g. rising temperature, changing rainfall patterns, etc.) on our biotic systems. Research to date on plant responses has been extensive, but work on herbivore responses has been less complete, and work on higher trophic levels nearly nonexistent. One group of herbivores that has been reasonably well studied is aphids, and at least for this group, researchers have even begun to investigate responses at higher trophic levels, to include parasitoids. In this paper, we develop a mechanistic mathematical model of the general interaction between grasses, cereal aphids and their parasitoids. We used this model to investigate the interacting effects of rising CO2 and temperature. The model suggests that, while parasitoids do have an impact on the aphid colony population dynamics, they do not fundamentally alter the aphid response to climate change. The model predicts that for both aphids and their parasitoids, the population responses to combined effects of elevated CO2 and temperature will be more similar to current ambient conditions than we might expect from the individual effects of CO2 or temperature increases. This interaction has important consequences for the interpretation of results from experiments that study only the effect of rising CO2.