Journal of Chemical Ecology

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 653–665

Acclimation to Elevated CO2 Increases Constitutive Glucosinolate Levels of Brassica Plants and Affects the Performance of Specialized Herbivores from Contrasting Feeding Guilds


DOI: 10.1007/s10886-013-0282-3

Cite this article as:
Klaiber, J., Dorn, S. & Najar-Rodriguez, A.J. J Chem Ecol (2013) 39: 653. doi:10.1007/s10886-013-0282-3


Plants growing under elevated CO2 concentration may acclimate by modifying chemical traits. Most studies have focused on the effects of environmental change on plant growth and productivity. Potential effects on chemical traits involved in resistance, and the consequences of such effects on plant-insect interactions, have been largely neglected. Here, we evaluated the performance of two Brassica specialist herbivores from contrasting feeding guilds, the leaf-feeding Pieris brassicae and the phloem-feeding Brevicoryne brassicae, in response to potential CO2-mediated changes in primary and major secondary metabolites (glucosinolates) in Brassica oleracea. Plants were exposed to either ambient (400 ppm) or elevated (800 ppm) CO2 concentrations for 2, 6, or 10 weeks. Elevated CO2 did not affect primary metabolites, but significantly increased glucosinolate content. The performance of both herbivores was significantly reduced under elevated CO2 suggesting that CO2-mediated increases in constitutive defense chemistry could benefit plants. However, plants with up-regulated defenses could also be subjected to intensified herbivory by some specialized herbivores, due to a chemically-mediated phagostimulatory effect, as documented here for P. brassicae larvae. Our results highlight the importance of understanding acclimation and responses of plants to the predicted increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations and the concomitant effects of these responses on the chemically-mediated interactions between plants and specialized herbivores.


Plant-insect interactionsBrassica oleraceaBrevicoryne brassicaePieris brassicaeSecondary metabolitesBottom-up effects

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.ETH Zurich, Institute of Agricultural Sciences/Applied EntomologyZurichSwitzerland