Elevated CO2 concentrations can increase plant growth and change plant nutritive value for herbivores. Several reports indicate that leaf-chewing insects consume more foliage of plants grown at elevated CO2 concentrations than of plants grown at ambient CO2. Research with additional plant–pest systems is needed to determine if this phenomenon is widespread and if increased insect feeding might affect productivity. Effects of CO2 enrichment on foliar consumption and population size of Western flower thrips [Frankliniella occidentalis (Pergande)]) were measured on white clover (Trifolium repens L.). White clover infested with thrips was exposed for 24 h/d to ≈396 (ambient) or 745 μLL−1 (elevated) CO2 for up to 35 d in 10 greenhouse exposure chambers. At elevated CO2, clover shoot weight and laminae weight were ≈50% greater, and laminar area was ≈20% greater than at ambient CO2. Thrips population size was not significantly affected by CO2, but laminar area scarred by thrips feeding was ≈90% greater at elevated than at ambient CO2. Because of increased growth, however, undamaged leaf area was approximately 15% greater at elevated than at ambient CO2.
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