Plant–insect interactions in a changing world

Insights on the expected final result of global change on plant–insect relationships in response to global changes


Although species are connected by trophic links (what eats what in the food web), all species respond differently to global changes. For example, pollinators are sensitive to global changes in climate, because they are involved in a mutual relationship with their favourite plants, thus any change in quality of the plant caused by climate stress can lead to a pollination deficit. Global change is rearranging the spatial and ecological balance of complex symbiotic relationships between plants and the insects that eat them.

This review offers insights on what the expected final result of global change on plant–insect relationships in response to global changes (including increased temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations, modification of land use and pollution) would be. The investigators distinguish between the direct from the indirect impacts on insects through the effects on the plants. Indirect effects include: a change in the nutritional quality of the plant tissues for plant-eating insects; and, a change in the climate of a confined area and conditions at the leaf surface. The investigators underscore the need for more research to reveal the indirect effects of climate change on insects, mediated by changes in the quality of the plants, with a focus on understanding the mechanisms that regulate the extent of the interaction between the plants and the insects (rather than focusing on each partner individually). They agree that human activities (such as land transformations and release of pollutants), are likely to regulate the trophic links between climate and plant–insect relationships.

This works was partly funded by the UK Department for International Development, a core donor of the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology.


Pincebourde S., Van Baaren J., Rasmann S., Rasmont P., Rodet G., Martinet B. and Calatayud P.-A. (2017) Plant–insect interactions in a changing world. Advances in Botanical Research 81, 289–332.

Plant–insect interactions in a changing world

Published 1 February 2017