caterpillars eat more greens … latest research

All the extra Greenery from increased atmospheric CO2 has one researcher worried. Those darn caterpillars are eating it all! Really, what else can they come up with, too many flowers perhaps? Via Greenie Watch:

[…] Couture and his team walked through each site, clipping leaves from the canopy using scissors at the end of pruner poles or from scaffolding near the top of the canopy. They also set out frass baskets — laundry baskets lined with sheets — to collect scraps of leaves dropped by messy, munching caterpillars and other bugs dining in the canopy, and to collect their fecal droppings.
Tens of thousands of leaves and countless frass baskets later, Couture measured the amount of leaf area consumed by the insects in each plot and sifted through the frass and food droppings in the baskets to assess just how much eating the bugs were doing, to measure the amount of nutrients leaving the trees via their droppings, and to assess the loss of tree biomass.

Why insects would do more munching in a carbon dioxide rich forest is in part a matter of chemistry. Because carbon dioxide is a limiting resource for plant growth, (Really? Ed.) high levels of the gas change the way trees use other resources, like nitrogen, typically leading to less nutritious plants.

“It’s like a slice of Wonder Bread versus a slice of high density, protein-rich bakery bread; there’s a lot more protein in the bakery bread than the white bread,” says Couture. “Insects have a base level of nutrients they need in order to grow and to reach that, they can choose either to eat higher-nutrient food — unfortunately, insects don’t always have that choice — or to eat more.”

Overall, the team found high ozone plots were less hospitable to insects, reducing their munching behavior and leading to less biomass loss.

With the findings, the researchers created models allowing them to predict what could happen in forests under changing environmental conditions.

“The big question is, will northern forests grow faster under elevated carbon dioxide?” says Lindroth. “Carbon dioxide is a substrate for photosynthesis. It gets converted into sugars, which then become plant biomass. Will trees take up more carbon dioxide and thus help reduce its increase in the atmosphere?”

As humans continue to contribute more carbon dioxide to Earth’s atmosphere, the answer should be yes as trees act as sponges for the greenhouse gas. But it turns out, very hungry caterpillars and their bug brethren — in their own quest for food in an elevated carbon dioxide environment — may limit that growth and reduce the capacity of forests to slow climate warming.

Models, again? BS meter is going off.

More from co2science, who has had a good look, and begs to differ:

UPDATE: Craig Idso has emailed some preliminary comments on the above claims.  He notes the powerful point that, despite all the cries of doom from Warmists, the earth is steadily greening — as one would expect from increased atmospheric CO2.  Those caterpillars might have to munch harder!  Craig’s comments below:

While I have not seen the paper discussed in this press release, I would not be concerned about the headline of this paper.  There are numerous counter papers showing the opposite is more likely to be true, some from THE VERY SAME FACE LOCATION!  The devil is always in the details and I suspect it may have been related to their experimental design.

Coincidentally, I am just finishing a manuscript that will be submitted to a journal that discusses this very same topic in a section of the paper, and again, the results are overwhelmingly in the other direction where elevated CO2 REDUCES herbivore attack damage.

The net greening observed by satellites is a combination of several factors, including  rising CO2, temperature, precipitation, nitrogen fertilization, policy (e.g., afforestation), etc.  I also discuss this in my forthcoming paper.

Regardless of the causes, the important point in the matter is the fact that despite all of the many real and imagined assaults on vegetation over the past several decades from forest fires, droughts, floods, deforestation, insect outbreaks, and the “dreaded” rise in temperature and CO2 concentrations, which the alarmists claim should be destroying nature, on the whole, there has been a net greening.  And that is a very powerful point that must be made again, again, and again.

The possums, they forgot the possums … really enjoying the enriched CO2 bounty.


Waiting for lights out before dinner.


About Tom Harley

Amateur ecologist and horticulturalist and CEO of Kimberley Environmental Horticulture Inc. (Tom Harley)
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1 Response to caterpillars eat more greens … latest research

  1. Lelia says:

    I quite like looking through a post that will make people
    think. Also, thank you for allowing for me to comment!

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