Fertilisers and insect herbivores: a meta-analysis



Dr S.R. Leather, Division of Ecology & Evolution, Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Ascot SL5 7PY, UK.

Email: s.leather@imperial.ac.uk


Despite the importance of a thorough understanding of the effect of synthetic fertiliser on insect population dynamics, existing literature is conflicting and an area of intense debate. Here, a categorical random-effects meta-analysis and a vote count meta-analysis are employed to examine the effects of nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K) and NPK fertiliser on insect population dynamics. In agreement with the general consensus, insects were found to respond positively, overall, to fertilisers. Sucking insects showed a much stronger response to fertilisers than chewing insects. The environment in which a study is conducted can have a marked effect on insect responses to fertiliser, with natural environments showing the potential for buffering effects of nitrogen fertilisers in particular. As well as highlighting the potential shortfall in the amount of research investigating particularly the effects of potassium and phosphorus, this study provides an invaluable flag post in the ongoing research investigating fertiliser effects on ecosystems.