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Northern Research Station
11 Campus Blvd., Suite 200
Newtown Square, PA 19073
(610) 557-4017
(610) 557-4132 TTY/TDD

You are here: NRS Home / Research Programs /Forest Disturbance Processes /Climate Change and Events / Effects of Global Atmospheric Change on Forest Insects: ASPEN FACE Studies
Forest Disturbance Processes

Effects of Global Atmospheric Change on Forest Insects

[photo:] Birch tree at Aspen FACE siteResearch Issue

Atmospheric changes, primarily the rapid increase in levels of greenhouse gases such as CO2 (ca. 2 ppm/yr), ozone, and others were predicted to substantially change plant-insect interactions due to their indirect effects on plant defensive and nutritional chemistry that strongly influence both phytophagous and saprophagous insect physiology, behavior, and population dynamics.  Moreover, rising temperatures and changing precipitation and storm patterns as accompanying collateral effects of atmospheric change were also predicted to have significant effects on plants and the population processes of insects.

Our Research

We have studied seasonal and annual changes in forest insect populations at the Aspen FACE Experiment site in northern Wisconsin where trees were grown under both elevated CO2 (+200 ppm above ambient) and ozone (+50% above ambient). Insect parasitoid and diversity abundance studies under these conditions were done to detect patterns of host and parasitoid interaction.  Studies of elevated CO2 leaf diets from Aspen FACE on respiration rates of laboratory-reared Gypsy moth were done to determine whether effects on first generation metabolism could be discerned.

Research Results

Data from our Aspen FACE studies have shown that each phytophagous and parasitic forest insect species responds individually to the CO2 and O3 effects on plants due to their unique tri-trophic niches, i.e. the confluence of their special plant tissues eaten, interactions with other herbivores, and predators and parasites, all of which are themselves affected by changing levels of greenhouse gases. Our knowledge about insect parasitoid and diversity abundance has increased, resulting in a better understanding of host plant-insect-parasitoid interactions. Elevated CO2 leaf diets had measurable effects on gypsy moth respiration rates that were tree species and larval instar dependent.

Foss, A.R., Mattson, W.J., and Trier, T.M. 2013. Effects of elevated CO2 leaf diets on gypsy moth (Lepidoptera: Lymantriidae) respiration rates. Environmental Entomology. 42(3): 503-514..

Veteli, T.O., Mattson, W.J., Niemelä, P., Julkunen-Tiitto, R., Kellomäki, S., Kuokkanen, K., and Lavola, A.  2007.  Do elevated temperature and CO2 generally have counteracting effects on phenolic phytochemistry of boreal trees?  J. Chem. Ecol.  33: 287-296.

Mattson, W.J., Julkunen-Tiitto, R., and Herms, D.A. 2005. CO2 enrichment and carbon partitioning to phenolics: do plant responses accord better with the protein competition or the growth-differentiation balance models?  Oikos 111: 337-347.

Mattson, W.J., Kuokkanen, K., Niemelä , P., Julkunen-Tiitto, R., Kellomäki, S. and Tahvanainen, J.  2004.  Elevated CO2 alters birch resistance to Lagomorpha herbivores.  Global Change Biology 10: 1402-141.

Research Participants

Research Contacts

  • Anita Foss, US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Biological Science Lab Technician
  • Deahn Donner, US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Project Leader / Research Ecologist

Principal Investigator

  • William J. Mattson, US Forest Service Northern Research Station- Research Entomologist (retired)

Research Partners

  • Dan Herms, the Ohio State University, Department of Entomology, Wooster, OH
  • Terry Trier, Grand Valley State University, Department of Biology, Allendale, MI 
  • Pekka Niemela, Turku University, Biology Department, Turku, Finland
  • Riita Julkinen-Tiitto, Joensu University, Biology Department, Joensuu, Finland

Last Modified: 03/05/2015