Arthropod-Plant Interactions

, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 33–47 | Cite as

Atmospheric change alters frass quality of forest canopy herbivores

Original Paper


This study examined the independent and interactive effects of elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) and tropospheric ozone (O3) on the foliar and litter chemistry of two deciduous tree species and the frass chemistry of four lepidopteran folivores. Trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides) and paper birch (Betula papyrifera) were grown under elevated levels of CO2 and/or O3 at the Aspen FACE research site in northern WI, USA. We measured the effects of CO2 and O3 on nitrogen, carbon to nitrogen (C:N), and condensed tannin levels in aspen and birch leaves and senescent litter and also in the frass of folivores fed aspen or birch green leaves. Overall, the effects of elevated CO2 on foliar chemistry were less pronounced than those of elevated O3, and aspen responded more strongly than birch. While the effects of elevated CO2 and O3 on foliar chemistry were generally reflected in frass chemistry, the magnitude of the response varied among insect species. Insect frass had higher nitrogen and condensed tannin levels and lower C:N ratios than did litter, although the magnitude of this response varied among fumigation treatments and insect species. Our findings demonstrate that the quality of insect-mediated organic deposition can be indirectly affected by atmospheric change, through altered foliar quality. Our findings also suggest that the quality of frass deposited on the forest floor via herbivory will be strongly affected by herbivore community composition.


Aspen FACE Atmospheric change Ecosystem processes Insect frass quality Plant–insect interactions 



We thank T. D. Meehan for assistance with field work and E. Johnsen for assistance with analyzing tannins. We are grateful to T. D. Fitzgerald for generously providing forest tent caterpillar egg masses and Stuart Baker for providing cecropia moth eggs. Comments from several anonymous reviewers improved this manuscript. Aspen FACE was principally supported by the Office of Science (BER), US Department of Energy, Grant No. DE-FG02-95ER62125 to Michigan Technological University, and Contract No. DE-AC02-98CH10886 to Brookhaven National Laboratory, the US Forest Service Northern Global Change Program and North Central Research Station, Michigan Technological University, and Natural Resources Canada—Canadian Forest Service. This work was supported by US Department of Energy (Office of Science, BER) Grant DE-FG02-06ER64232 and University of Wisconsin Hatch grant WIS04898 to RL and USDA NIFA AFRI Fellowship Grant 2012-67012-19900 to JC.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EntomologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forest and Wildlife EcologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonMadisonUSA

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