Differential responses of leaf photosynthesis to insect and pathogen outbreaks: A global synthesis

Baocheng Zhang, Lingyan Zhou, Xuhui Zhou, Yanfen Bai, Maokui Zhan, Ji Chen, Chengyuan Xu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Outbreak of insects or pathogens (referred to as biotic disturbance), which is projected to continually increase in a warmer climate, may profoundly affect plant photosynthesis and production. However, the response of plant photosynthesis to biotic disturbance remains unclear, especially differences in response between insects and pathogens, which hinders the prediction of plant productivity in future climate. In this study, a meta-analysis approach was used to examine effects of insects and pathogens on photosynthetic rate per unit leaf area (Pn) and the associated characteristics from 115 studies. Our results showed that biotic disturbance significantly decreased Pn by 34.8% but increased Rd by 26.2%. Most of parameters associated with Pn were significantly reduced by biotic disturbance, including gs, Tr, photosynthetic pigments (e.g., a + b, a, and b), and chlorophyll fluorescence properties (Fv/Fm, qp). The disturbance type (insects vs pathogens) was the most important factor affecting the response of Pn, with a greater decrease in Pn by pathogens (−37.5%) than insects (−28.0%). The response ratio of Pn was positively correlated with that of gs and Tr for both insects and pathogens, while negatively with Ci and positively with Chl a + b, ΦPSII, and qp for only pathogens. In addition, the higher sensitivity of Pn to biotic disturbance in crop than non-crop plants poses a great challenge to agricultural system in the future. The weighted response ratio of Pn and relationships of Pn with other associated paramerters under insect and pathogen disturbance will facilitate vegetation models to integrate the effects of biotic disturbance on primary production, improving predicition of the ecosystem carbon cyling in combining with leaf area measurement.

Original languageEnglish
Article number155052
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022
Externally publishedYes


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