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1.  Elevated Atmospheric CO2 Triggers Compensatory Feeding by Root Herbivores on a C3 but Not a C4 Grass 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(3):e90251.
Predicted increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations often reduce nutritional quality for herbivores by increasing the C∶N ratio of plant tissue. This frequently triggers compensatory feeding by aboveground herbivores, whereby they consume more shoot material in an attempt to meet their nutritional needs. Little, however, is known about how root herbivores respond to such changes. Grasslands are particularly vulnerable to root herbivores, which can collectively exceed the mass of mammals grazing aboveground. Here we provide novel evidence for compensatory feeding by a grass root herbivore, Sericesthis nigrolineata, under elevated atmospheric CO2 (600 µmol mol−1) on a C3 (Microlaena stipoides) but not a C4 (Cymbopogon refractus) grass species. At ambient CO2 (400 µmol mol−1) M. stipoides roots were 44% higher in nitrogen (N) and 7% lower in carbon (C) concentrations than C. refractus, with insects performing better on M. stipoides. Elevated CO2 decreased N and increased C∶N in M. stipoides roots, but had no impact on C. refractus roots. Root-feeders displayed compensatory feeding on M. stipoides at elevated CO2, consuming 118% more tissue than at ambient atmospheric CO2. Despite this, root feeder biomass remained depressed by 24%. These results suggest that compensatory feeding under elevated atmospheric CO2 may make some grass species particularly vulnerable to attack, potentially leading to future shifts in the community composition of grasslands.
PMCID: PMC3961222  PMID: 24651855
2.  Effects of Elevated CO2 on Litter Chemistry and Subsequent Invertebrate Detritivore Feeding Responses 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e86246.
Elevated atmospheric CO2 can change foliar tissue chemistry. This alters leaf litter palatability to macroinvertebrate detritivores with consequences for decomposition, nutrient turnover, and food-web structure. Currently there is no consensus on the link between CO2 enrichment, litter chemistry, and macroinvertebrate-mediated leaf decomposition. To identify any unifying mechanisms, we presented eight invertebrate species from aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems with litter from Alnus glutinosa (common alder) or Betula pendula (silver birch) trees propagated under ambient (380 ppm) or elevated (ambient +200 ppm) CO2 concentrations. Alder litter was largely unaffected by CO2 enrichment, but birch litter from leaves grown under elevated CO2 had reduced nitrogen concentrations and greater C/N ratios. Invertebrates were provided individually with either (i) two litter discs, one of each CO2 treatment (‘choice’), or (ii) one litter disc of each CO2 treatment alone (‘no-choice’). Consumption was recorded. Only Odontocerum albicorne showed a feeding preference in the choice test, consuming more ambient- than elevated-CO2 birch litter. Species’ responses to alder were highly idiosyncratic in the no-choice test: Gammarus pulex and O. albicorne consumed more elevated-CO2 than ambient-CO2 litter, indicating compensatory feeding, while Oniscus asellus consumed more of the ambient-CO2 litter. No species responded to CO2 treatment when fed birch litter. Overall, these results show how elevated atmospheric CO2 can alter litter chemistry, affecting invertebrate feeding behaviour in species-specific ways. The data highlight the need for greater species-level information when predicting changes to detrital processing–a key ecosystem function–under atmospheric change.
PMCID: PMC3899220  PMID: 24465985
3.  Interactive effects of plant-available soil silicon and herbivory on competition between two grass species 
Annals of Botany  2011;108(7):1355-1363.
Background and Aims
The herbivore defence system of true grasses (Poaceae) is predominantly based on silicon that is taken up from the soil and deposited in the leaves in the form of abrasive phytoliths. Silicon uptake mechanisms can be both passive and active, with the latter suggesting that there is an energetic cost to silicon uptake. This study assessed the effects of plant-available soil silicon and herbivory on the competitive interactions between the grasses Poa annua, a species that has previously been reported to accumulate only small amounts of silicon, and Lolium perenne, a high silicon accumulator.
Plants were grown in mono- and mixed cultures under greenhouse conditions. Plant-available soil silicon levels were manipulated by adding silicon to the soil in the form of sodium silicate. Subsets of mixed culture pots were exposed to above-ground herbivory by desert locusts (Schistocerca gregaria).
Key Results
In the absence of herbivory, silicon addition increased biomass of P. annua but decreased biomass of L. perenne. Silicon addition increased foliar silicon concentrations of both grass species >4-fold. Under low soil-silicon availability the herbivores removed more leaf biomass from L. perenne than from P. annua, whereas under high silicon availability the reverse was true. Consequently, herbivory shifted the competitive balance between the two grass species, with the outcome depending on the availability of soil silicon.
It is concluded that a complex interplay between herbivore abundance, growth–defence trade-offs and the availability of soil silicon in the grasses' local environment affects the outcome of inter-specific competition, and so has the potential to impact on plant community structure.
PMCID: PMC3197457  PMID: 21868406
Above-ground herbivory; Lolium perenne; physical anti-herbivore defence; Poa annua; Schistocerca gregaria; growth–defence trade-off

Results 1-3 (3)