Elevated levels of CO2 affect plant growth and leaf chemistry, which in turn can alter host plant suitability for insect herbivores. We examined the suitability of foliage from trees grown from seedlings since 1997 at Aspen FACE as diet for the gypsy moth (Lymantria dispar L.) Lepidoptera: Lymantriidae: paper birch (Betula papyrifera Marshall) in 2004–2005, and trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michaux) in 2006–2007, and measured consequent effects on larval respiration. Leaves were collected for diet and leaf chemistry (nutritional and secondary compound proxies) from trees grown under ambient (average 380 ppm) and elevated CO2 (average 560 ppm) conditions. Elevated CO2 did not significantly alter birch or aspen leaf chemistry compared with ambient levels with the exception that birch percent carbon in 2004 and aspen moisture content in 2006 were significantly lowered. Respiration rates were significantly higher (15–59%) for larvae reared on birch grown under elevated CO2 compared with ambient conditions, but were not different on two aspen clones, until larvae reached the fifth instar, when those consuming elevated CO2 leaves on clone 271 had lower (26%) respiration rates, and those consuming elevated CO2 leaves on clone 216 had higher (36%) respiration rates. However, elevated CO2 had no apparent effect on the respiration rates of pupae derived from larvae fed either birch or aspen leaves. Higher respiration rates for larvae fed diets grown under ambient or elevated CO2 demonstrates their lower efficiency of converting chemical energy of digested food stuffs extracted from such leaves into their biosynthetic processes.
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