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Oecologia. 2004 May;139(3):383-91. Epub 2004 Feb 24.

Genotype-specific response of a lycaenid herbivore to elevated carbon dioxide and phosphorus availability in calcareous grassland.

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  • 1Department of Integrative Biology, Section of Conservation Biology, University of Basel, St Johanns-Vorstadt 10, 4056, Basel, Switzerland. marcel.goverde@bluemail.ch


Effects of elevated CO2 and P availability on plant growth of the legume Lotus corniculatus and consequences for the butterfly larvae of Polyommatus icarus feeding on L. corniculatus were investigated in screen-aided CO2 control chambers under natural conditions on a calcareous grassland in the Swiss Jura mountains. Elevated CO2 conditions and P fertilisation increased the biomass production of L. corniculatus plants and affected the plant chemical composition. CO2 enrichment increased the C/N ratio and sugar concentration and decreased the N and P concentrations. C- and N-based allelochemicals (cyanoglycosides, total polyphenols and condensed tannins) were only marginally affected by CO2 enrichment. P fertilisation increased the specific leaf area and concentrations of water, N, sugar and P, while the C/N ratio and the concentration of total polyphenols decreased. Furthermore, P availability marginally enhanced the effect of elevated CO2 on the total dry mass and sugar concentration while the opposite occurred for the total polyphenol concentration. The changes in food-plant chemistry as a result of P fertilisation positively affected larval mass gain and accelerated the development time of P. icarus. Only a marginal negative effect on larval mass gain was found for CO2 enrichment. However, we found genotype-specific responses in the development time of P. icarus to elevated CO2 conditions. Larvae originating from different mothers developed better either under elevated CO2 or under ambient CO2 but some did not react to CO2 elevation. As far as we know this is the first finding of a genotype-specific response of an insect herbivore to elevated CO2 which suggests genetic shifts in insect life history traits in response to elevated CO2.

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