, Volume 163, Issue 4, pp 949–960 | Cite as

Effects of sap-feeding insect herbivores on growth and reproduction of woody plants: a meta-analysis of experimental studies

  • Elena L. ZverevaEmail author
  • Vojtěch Lanta
  • Mikhail V. Kozlov
Plant-Animal interactions - Original Paper


The majority of generalisations concerning plant responses to herbivory are based on studies of natural or simulated defoliation. However, effects caused by insects feeding on plant sap are likely to differ from the effects of folivory. We assessed the general patterns and sources of variation in the effects of sap feeding on growth, photosynthesis, and reproduction of woody plants through a meta-analysis of 272 effect sizes calculated from 52 papers. Sap-feeders significantly reduced growth (−29%), reproduction (−17%), and photosynthesis (−27%); seedlings suffered more than saplings and mature trees. Deciduous and evergreen woody plants did not differ in their abilities to tolerate damage imposed by sap-feeders. Different plant parts, in particular below- and above-ground organs, responded similarly to damage, indicating that sap-feeders did not change the resource allocation in plants. The strongest effects were caused by mesophyll and phloem feeders, and the weakest by xylem feeders. Generalist sap-feeders reduced plant performance to a greater extent than did specialists. Methodology substantially influenced the outcomes of the primary studies; experiments conducted in greenhouses yielded stronger negative effects than field experiments; shorter (<12 months) experiments showed bigger growth reduction in response to sap feeding than longer experiments; natural levels of herbivory caused weaker effects than infestation of experimental plants by sap-feeders. Studies conducted at higher temperatures yielded stronger detrimental effects of sap-feeders on their hosts. We conclude that sap-feeders impose a more severe overall negative impact on plant performance than do defoliators, mostly due to the lower abilities of woody plants to compensate for sap-feeders’ damage in terms of both growth and photosynthesis.


Compensatory responses Photosynthesis Plant growth Reproduction Resource allocation 



We are grateful to S. Neuvonen for providing additional information, to A. Stekolshchikov for assistance in search of publications and for consultations on aphid nomenclature, and to anonymous reviewers for valuable suggestions. The study was supported by the Academy of Finland (project number 122133).

Supplementary material

442_2010_1633_MOESM1_ESM.doc (159 kb)
Supplementary material (DOC 159 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elena L. Zvereva
    • 1
    Email author
  • Vojtěch Lanta
    • 1
  • Mikhail V. Kozlov
    • 1
  1. 1.Section of Ecology, Department of BiologyUniversity of TurkuTurkuFinland

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