The Effects of Climate Warming on Plant-Herbivore Interactions

Nathan P Lemoine, Florida International University


Rising temperatures associated with climate change will alter the fundamental physiological processes of most ectothermic species. Drastic changes in catabolic and anabolic reaction rates exert strong effects on growth, reproduction, and consumption rates that cascade up through all levels of the biological hierarchy. This dissertation determined how climate warming might alter the important relationship between plants and insect herbivores, as mediated through changes in herbivore physiology. Consumption and fitness increased with temperature for almost all consumers. However, all consumers also exhibited a critical temperature, beyond which consumption declined rapidly through metabolism continued to increase. This mismatch in metabolic demands and energy intake reduced consumer fitness at high temperatures. Furthermore, increased metabolic nitrogen demand can induce nitrogen limitation in insect herbivores at high temperatures. These basic physiological changes can modify the way herbivores interact with plants in a number of ways. For example, the Japanese beetle, Popillia japonica, altered its feeding behavior on numerous host plant species, depending on host plant quality. Unfortunately, the effects of temperature on plant-herbivore interactions will be difficult to predict, as there was no predictable relationship between consumption and temperature across numerous plant-herbivore pairs. Finally, rising temperatures disrupt insect herbivore control of plant fitness, thereby altering one of the most important components of plant-herbivore interactions. Thus, climate change will fundamentally change the nature of plant-herbivore interactions in the future.

Subject Area

Ecology|Entomology|Aquatic sciences

Recommended Citation

Lemoine, Nathan P, "The Effects of Climate Warming on Plant-Herbivore Interactions" (2015). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI10002871.