Global Change Effects on Plant Chemical Defenses against Insect Herbivores


  • Supported by the National Science Foundation to M. G. Bidart-Bouzat (IOS-0715220).

*Author for correspondence.
Tel: +1 419 372 4644;
Fax: +1 419 372 2024;
E-mail: <>.


This review focuses on individual effects of major global change factors, such as elevated CO2, O3, UV light and temperature, on plant secondary chemistry. These secondary metabolites are well-known for their role in plant defense against insect herbivory. Global change effects on secondary chemicals appear to be plant species-specific and dependent on the chemical type. Even though plant chemical responses induced by these factors are highly variable, there seems to be some specificity in the response to different environmental stressors. For example, even though the production of phenolic compounds is enhanced by both elevated CO2 and UV light levels, the latter appears to primarily increase the concentrations of flavonoids. Likewise, specific phenolic metabolites seem to be induced by O3 but not by other factors, and an increase in volatile organic compounds has been particularly detected under elevated temperature. More information is needed regarding how global change factors influence inducibility of plant chemical defenses as well as how their indirect and direct effects impact insect performance and behavior, herbivory rates and pathogen attack. This knowledge is crucial to better understand how plants and their associated natural enemies will be affected in future changing environments.