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Life in a Near-Future Atmosphere: Carbon Dioxide Enrichment Increases Plant Growth and Alters the Behavior of a Terrestrial Snail but not a Terrestrial Beetle

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Abstract In addition to effects on climate and water acidification, anthropogenic atmospheric releases of carbon dioxide may also directly impact terrestrial organisms that use CO2 as a chemical cue. We wondered how common organisms would respond to near-future levels of CO2 – levels that may occur by 2025. We chose two common but taxonomically and ecologically dissimilar organisms (Theba pisana helicid snails and Adesmia dilatata tenebrionid beetles) to examine the behavioral effects of a slight rise (~10 ppm) of CO2 on animal abundance and plant growth in the Negev Desert of Israel. We found that plots with supplementary CO2 exhibited greater plant growth than control plots over a 50-day experiment, but increased growth did not alter beetle or snail numbers.In laboratory experiments with higher levels of augmented CO2 paired with food rewards, we found that snails did not change their climbing behavior when presented with CO2 alone, but they avoided food and climbed away when CO2 was paired with food. Beetles in the laboratory were attracted to food regardless of CO2 levels although high levels of CO2 (1200–1300 ppm) reduced movement.The direct effects of near-future CO2 levels may augment plant growth but have only minor influence on terrestrial snails and beetles. However, the effects of CO2 on climate change in desert habitats like the Negev may be more severe due to a predicted rise in temperature and a decline in precipitation.

Affiliations: 1: Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology, Blaustein Institute, Ben-Gurion University, Midreshet Ben Gurion, Israel; ; 2: Biology Department, Gonzaga University, 502 E. Boone Avenue, Spokane, WA 99258, USA


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