Drought has negative consequences on aphid fitness and plant vigor: Insights from a meta-analysis

Daniel J. Leybourne, Katharine F. Preedy, Tracy A. Valentine, Jorunn I. B. Bos, Alison J. Karley (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)
255 Downloads (Pure)


Aphids are abundant in natural and managed vegetation, supporting a diverse community of organisms and causing damage to agricultural crops. Due to a changing climate, periods of drought are anticipated to increase, and the potential consequences of this for aphid–plant interactions are unclear. Using a meta-analysis and synthesis approach, we aimed to advance understanding of how increased drought incidence will affect this ecologically and economically important insect group and to characterize any potential underlying mechanisms. We used qualitative and quantitative synthesis techniques to determine whether drought stress has a negative, positive, or null effect on aphid fitness and examined these effects in relation to (a) aphid biology, (b) geographical region, and (c) host plant biology. Across all studies, aphid fitness is typically reduced under drought. Subgroup analysis detected no difference in relation to aphid biology, geographical region, or the aphid–plant combination, indicating the negative effect of drought on aphids is potentially universal. Furthermore, drought stress had a negative impact on plant vigor and increased plant concentrations of defensive chemicals, suggesting the observed response of aphids is associated with reduced plant vigor and increased chemical defense in drought-stressed plants. We propose a conceptual model to predict drought effects on aphid fitness in relation to plant vigor and defense to stimulate further research.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11915-11929
Number of pages15
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number17
Early online date28 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021


  • climate change
  • ecological entomology
  • insect–environment interactions
  • meta-analysis
  • plant–insect interactions

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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