, Volume 108, Issue 1, pp 113–120

Decline in gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar) performance in an elevated CO2 atmosphere depends upon host plant species

Plant Animal Interactions

DOI: 10.1007/BF00333222

Cite this article as:
Traw, M.B., Lindroth, R.L. & Bazzaz, F.A. Oecologia (1996) 108: 113. doi:10.1007/BF00333222


Plant species differ broadly in their responses to an elevated CO2 atmosphere, particularly in the extent of nitrogen dilution of leaf tissue. Insect herbivores are often limited by the availability of nutrients, such as nitrogen, in their host plant tissue and may therefore respond differentially on different plant species grown in CO2-enriched environments. We reared gyspy moth larvae (Lymantria dispar) in situ on seedlings of yellow birch (Betula allegheniensis) and gray birch (B. populifolia) grown in an ambient (350 ppm) or elevated (700 ppm) CO2 atmosphere to test whether larval responses in the elevated CO2 atmosphere were species-dependent. We report that female gypsy moths (Lymantria dispar) reared on gray birch (Betula populifolia) achieved similar pupal masses on plants grown at an ambient or an elevated CO2 concentration. However, on yellow birch (B. allegheniensis), female pupal mass was 38% smaller on plants in the elevated-CO2 atmosphere. Larval mortality was significantly higher on yellow birch than gray birch, but did not differ between the CO2 treatments. Relative growth rate declined more in the elevated CO2 atmosphere for larvae on yellow birch than for those on gray birch. In preference tests, larvae preferred ambient over elevated CO2-grown leaves of yellow birch, but showed no preference between gray birch leaves from the two CO2 atmospheres. This differential response of gypsy moths to their host species corresponded to a greater decline in leaf nutritional quality in the elevated CO2 atmosphere in yellow birch than in gray birch. Leaf nitrogen content of yellow birch dropped from 2.68% to 1.99% while that of gray birch leaves only declined from 3.23% to 2.63%. Meanwhile, leaf condensed tannin concentration increased from 8.92% to 11.45% in yellow birch leaves while gray birch leaves only increased from 10.72% to 12.34%. Thus the declines in larval performance in a future atmosphere may be substantial and host-species-specific.

Key words

Lymantria disparBetulaceaeElevation CO2TanninNitrogen

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Organismic and Evolutionary BiologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyUniversity of WisconsinMadisonUSA
  3. 3.Section of Ecology and SystematicsCornell UniversityIthacaUSA