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A finalist PNAS Cozzarelli Award research study was selected by OU

A research study by the University of Oklahoma on the causes contributing to the decline in the number of insects in the finalists for the prestigious Cozzarelli Award was selected by the journal, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. OU’s article ranked “2020 Cozzarelli Prize Finalist” in the category of Applied Biological, Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, one of six scientific disciplines within the National Academy of Sciences.

“The Cozzarelli Prize is awarded for research of exceptional scientific quality and originality,” said Thomas Diaz de la Robia, OU Vice President for Research and Partnerships. “By your appointment to the Final Round, the significance of this research led by Dr. Welty and Dr. Caspari is evident.”

The article, “Nutrient Mitigation and Climate Cycles to Decreases in Dominant Herbivorous Insects,” is based on evidence that insect numbers are steadily decreasing and proposes a new hypothesis that an important contributing factor to this decline is due to higher levels of carbon dioxide making plants less nutritious, Source Concern not just for insect populations but for ecosystems in general.

“Experiments show that plants contain lower concentrations of nutrients when grown with increased carbon dioxide in the atmosphere,” said lead author Ellen Welty. “Our study indicates that this could be a growing problem for herbivores such as grasshoppers and their larvae.”

The research was conducted in an outdoor environmental laboratory, Konza Prairie, at Kansas State University. Michael Caspari, senior author of the paper and George Lynn Cross research professor in the University’s Department of Biology, said scientists expected that an increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would cause “a greening of the Earth.”

“While absolutely true – grass production in the Kansas wilds has doubled over the past 30 years – the increase in the amount of food masks masks a decrease in their nutrients, which is the equivalent of turning a field of kale into a mountain of iceberg lettuce,” Caspari said. . Pollution with carbon dioxide is creating “green deserts” where animals such as locusts have difficulty earning a living. “

The study was led by researchers from the Department of Biology at OU in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Department of Geography and Environmental Sustainability in the School of Atmospheric Sciences and Geography. At the time of publishing the study, Welty was a postdoctoral researcher in OU’s Caspari Laboratory. She is currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Senckenberg Research Institute in Gelnhausen, Germany. Researchers from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign and Kansas State University contributed to the study.

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Zak Higby
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