An emerging understanding of mechanisms governing insect herbivory under elevated CO2

Jorge A. Zavala, Paul D. Nabity, Evan H. DeLucia

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


By changing the chemical composition of foliage, the increase in atmospheric CO2 is fundamentally altering insect herbivory. The responses of folivorous insects to these changes is, however, highly variable. In this review we highlight emerging mechanisms by which increasing CO 2 alters the defense chemistry and signaling of plants. The response of allelochemicals affecting insect performance varies under elevated CO 2, and results suggest this is driven by changes in plant hormones. Increasing CO2 presses the production of jasmonates and ethylene and increases the production of salicylic acid, and these differential responses of plant hormones affect specific secondary chemical pathways. In addition to changes in secondary chemistry, elevated CO2 decreases rates of water loss from leaves, increases temperature and feeding rates, and alters nutritional content. New insights into the mechanistic responses of secondary chemistry to elevated CO2 increase our ability to predict the ecological and evolutionary responses of plants attacked by insects.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-97
Number of pages19
JournalAnnual Review of Entomology
StatePublished - Jan 7 2013


  • defense
  • global change
  • hormone
  • jasmonic acid
  • nutrition
  • salicylic acid

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Insect Science


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