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Data from: Forest defoliator pests alter carbon and nitrogen cycles

Cite this dataset

l-M-Arnold, Anne et al. (2016). Data from: Forest defoliator pests alter carbon and nitrogen cycles [Dataset]. Dryad.


Climate change may foster pest epidemics in forests, and thereby the fluxes of elements that are indicators of ecosystem functioning. We examined compounds of carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) in insect faeces, leaf litter, throughfall and analysed the soils of deciduous oak forests (Quercus petraea L.) that were heavily infested by the leaf herbivores winter moth (Operophtera brumata L.) and mottled umber (Erannis defoliaria L.). In infested forests, total net canopy-to-soil fluxes of C and N deriving from insect faeces, leaf litter and throughfall were 30- and 18-fold higher compared with uninfested oak forests, with 4333 kg C ha−1 and 319 kg N ha−1, respectively, during a pest outbreak over 3 years. In infested forests, C and N levels in soil solutions were enhanced and C/N ratios in humus layers were reduced indicating an extended canopy-to-soil element pathway compared with the non-infested forests. In a microcosm incubation experiment, soil treatments with insect faeces showed 16-fold higher fluxes of carbon dioxide and 10-fold higher fluxes of dissolved organic carbon compared with soil treatments without added insect faeces (control). Thus, the deposition of high rates of nitrogen and rapidly decomposable carbon compounds in the course of forest pest epidemics appears to stimulate soil microbial activity (i.e. heterotrophic respiration), and therefore, may represent an important mechanism by which climate change can initiate a carbon cycle feedback.

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