In this review, we test the hypothesis that abiotic stress increases the suitability of plants as food for herbivores. We conducted a meta-analysis that included 70 experimental studies in which insect performance was measured on woody plants subjected to water stress, pollution, and/or shading. Overall, plant stress had no significant effect on insect growth rate, fecundity, survival, or colonization density. We found great variation, however, in the magnitude and direction of insect responses among studies, most of which was related to insect feeding guild. In general, boring and sucking insects performed better on stressed plants, whereas plant stress adversely affected gall-makers and chewing insects. Reduction in performance of chewers was greater on stressed slow-growing plants than on stressed fast growers. Reproductive potential of sucking insects was increased by pollution but reduced by water stress. In some cases where sample sizes were small or the treatment periods short, apparent differences in insect responses to stress were probably artifacts due to inappropriate experimental design.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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