Herbivore-mediated material fluxes in a northern deciduous forest under elevated carbon dioxide and ozone concentrations
- Anthropogenic changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and ozone (O3) are known to alter tree physiology and growth, but the cascading effects on herbivore communities and herbivore-mediated nutrient cycling are poorly understood.
- We sampled herbivore frass, herbivore-mediated greenfall, and leaf-litter deposition in temperate forest stands under elevated CO2 (c. 560 ppm) and O3 (c. 1.5× ambient), analyzed substrate chemical composition, and compared the quality and quantity of fluxes under multiple atmospheric treatments.
- Leaf-chewing herbivores fluxed 6.2 g m−2 yr−1 of frass and greenfall from the canopy to the forest floor, with a carbon : nitrogen (C : N) ratio 32% lower than that of leaf litter. Herbivore fluxes of dry matter, C, condensed tannins, and N increased under elevated CO2 (35, 32, 63 and 39%, respectively), while fluxes of N decreased (18%) under elevated O3. Herbivore-mediated dry matter inputs scaled across atmospheric treatments as a constant proportion of leaf-litter inputs.
- Increased fluxes under elevated CO2 were consistent with increased herbivore consumption and abundance, and with increased plant growth and soil respiration, previously reported for this experimental site. Results suggest that insect herbivory will reinforce other factors, such as photosynthetic rate and fine-root production, impacting C sequestration by forests in future environments.