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Malnourished bugs: higher CO2 levels make plants less nutritious, hurting insect populations


The Research Brief is a short take on interesting academic work.

The big idea
Grasshopper populations, like those of many other insects, are declining. My colleagues and I identified a new possible culprit: The plants grasshoppers rely on for food are becoming less nutritious due to increased levels of carbon dioxide in the air.

Ever-increasing levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere tend to promote plant growth by supplying them with extra carbon. But all that added carbon is squeezing out other nutrients that plant feeders – like insects and people – need to thrive. These fast-growing plants end up less dense in nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus and sodium – more like iceberg lettuce than kale. MORE

Header image: The Konza Prairie, a protected grassland in Kansas, is a unique research area: decades of data and minimal human influence. Credit: Ellen Welti, CC BY-ND.

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