Title Growth and reproduction of the alpine grasshopper Miramella alpina feeding on CO₂-enriched dwarf shrubs at treeline
Author/s Roman Asshoff, Stephan Hättenschwiler
Year 2005
Journal Oecologia 142:191-201
Abstract The consequences for plant-insect interactions of atmospheric changes in alpine ecosystems are not well understood. Here, we tested the effects of elevated CO₂ on leaf quality in two dwarf shrub species (Vaccinium myrtillus and V. uliginosum) and the response of the alpine grasshopper (Miramella alpina) feeding on these plants in a field experiment at the alpine treeline (2,180 m a.s.l.) in Davos, Switzerland. Relative growth rates (RGR) of M. alpina nymphs were lower when they were feeding on V. myrtillus compared to V. uliginosum, and were affected by elevated CO₂ depending on plant species and nymph developmental stage. Changes in RGR correlated with CO₂-induced changes in leaf water, nitrogen, and starch concentrations. Elevated CO₂ resulted in reduced female adult weight irrespective of plant species, and prolonged development time on V. uliginosum only, but there were no significant differences in nymphal mortality. Newly molted adults of M. alpina produced lighter eggs and less secretion (serving as egg protection) under elevated CO₂. When grasshoppers had a choice among four different plant species grown either under ambient or elevated CO₂, V. myrtillus and V. uliginosum consumption increased under elevated CO₂ in females while it decreased in males compared to ambient CO₂-grown leaves. Our findings suggest that rising atmospheric CO₂ distinctly affects leaf chemistry in two important dwarf shrub species at the alpine treeline, leading to changes in feeding behavior, growth, and reproduction of the most important insect herbivore in this system. Changes in plant-grasshopper interactions might have significant long-term impacts on herbivore pressure, community dynamics and ecosystem stability in the alpine treeline ecotone.
Keywords Elevated CO₂ · Global change · Herbivory · Leaf chemistry · Vaccinium sp.
Contact Stephan Hättenschwiler: email | webpage
Research project Treeline trees in a CO₂-enriched world