Is There a Temperate Bias in Our Understanding of How Climate Change Will Alter Plant-Herbivore Interactions? A Meta-analysis of Experimental Studies


Climate change can drive major shifts in community composition and interactions between resident species. However, the magnitude of these changes depends on the type of interactions and the biome in which they take place. We review the existing conceptual framework for how climate change will influence tropical plant-herbivore interactions and formalize a similar framework for the temperate zone. We then conduct the first biome-specific tests of how plant-herbivore interactions change in response to climatedriven changes in temperature, precipitation, ambient CO2, and ozone. We used quantitative meta-analysis to compare predicted and observed changes in experimental studies. Empirical studies were heavily biased toward temperate systems, so testing predicted changes in tropical plantherbivore interactions was virtually impossible. Furthermore, most studies investigated the effects of CO2 with limited plant and herbivore species. Irrespective of location, most studies manipulated only one climate change factor despite the fact that different factors can act in synergy to alter responses of plants and herbivores. Finally, studies of belowground plant-herbivore interactions were also rare; those conducted suggest that climate change could have major effects on belowground subsystems. Our results suggest that there is a disconnection between the growing literature proposing how climate change will influence plantherbivore interactions and the studies testing these predictions. General conclusions will also be hampered without better integration of aboveand belowground systems, assessing the effects of multiple climate change factors simultaneously, and using greater diversity of species in experiments.

The American Naturalist, (188), S1, pp. S74–S89,