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Sagebrush and grasshopper responses to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration

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Summary

Seed- and clonally-propagated plants of Big Sagebrush (Artemisia tridentata var.tridentata) were grown under atmospheric carbon dioxide regimes of 270, 350 and 650 μl l−1 and fed toMelanoplus differentialis andM. sanguinipes grasshoppers. Total shrub biomass significantly increased as carbon dioxide levels increased, as did the weight and area of individual leaves. Plants grown from seed collected in a single population exhibited a 3–5 fold variation in the concentration of leaf volatile mono- and sesquiterpenes, guaianolide sesquiterpene lactones, coumarins and flavones within each CO2 treatment. The concentration of leaf allelochemicals did not differ significantly among CO2 treatments for these seed-propagated plants. Further, when genotypic variation was controlled by vegetative propagation, allelochemical concentrations also did not differ among carbon dioxide treatments. On the other hand, overall leaf nitrogen concentration declined significantly with elevated CO2. Carbon accumulation was seen to dilute leaf nitrogen as the balance of leaf carbon versus nitrogen progressively increased as CO2 growth concentration increased. Grasshopper feeding was highest on sagebrush leaves grown under 270 and 650 μl l−1 CO2, but varied widely within treatments. Leaf nitrogen concentration was an important positive factor in grasshopper relative growth but had no overall effect on consumption. Potential compensatory consumption by these generalist grasshoppers was apparently limited by the sagebrush allelochemicals. Insects with a greater ability to feed on chemically defended host plants under carbon dioxide enrichment may ultimately consume leaves with a lower nitrogen concentration but the same concentration of allelochemicals. Compensatory feeding may potentially increase the amount of dietary allelochemicals ingested for each unit of nitrogen consumed.

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Johnson, R.H., Lincoln, D.E. Sagebrush and grasshopper responses to atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration. Oecologia 84, 103–110 (1990). https://doi.org/10.1007/BF00665602

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Key words

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Nutritional quality
  • Allelochemcials
  • Artemisia tridentata
  • Melanoplus