Impact of urbanization on predator and parasitoid insects at multiple spatial scales.
ABSTRACT: Landscapes are becoming increasingly urbanized, causing loss and fragmentation of natural habitats, with potentially negative effects on biodiversity. Insects are among the organisms with the largest diversity in urbanized environments. Here, we sampled predator (Ampulicidae, Sphecidae and Crabronidae) and parasitoid (Tachinidae) flower-visiting insects in 36 sites in the city of Rome (Italy). Although the diversity of herbivorous insects in urban areas mostly depends on the availability of flowering plants and nesting sites, predators and parasitoids generally require a larger number of resources during their life cycle, and are expected to be particularly influenced by urbanization. As flower-visitors can easily move between habitat patches, the effect of urbanization was tested at multiple spatial scales (local, landscape and sub-regional). We found that urbanization influenced predator and parasitoid flower-visitors at all three spatial scales. At the local scale, streets and buildings negatively influenced evenness of predators and species richness and abundance of parasitoids probably acting as dispersal barrier. At the landscape scale, higher percentage of urban decreased predator abundance, while increasing their evenness, suggesting an increase in generalist and highly mobile species. Area and compactness (i.e. Contiguity index) of urban green interactively influenced predator communities, whereas evenness of parasitoids increased with increasing Contiguity index. At the sub-regional scale, species richness and abundance of predators increased with increasing distance from the city center. Compared to previous studies testing the effect of urbanization, we found little variation in species richness, abundance and evenness along our urbanization gradient. The current insect fauna has been probably selected for its tolerance to habitat loss and fragmentation, being the result of the intensive anthropogenic alteration occurred in the area in the last centuries. Conservation strategies aimed at predator and parasitoid flying insects have to take in account variables at multiple spatial-scales, as well as the complementarity of resources across the landscape.
Project description:The use of non-crop plants to provide the resources that herbivorous crop pests' natural enemies need is being increasingly incorporated into integrated pest management programs. We evaluated insect functional groups found on three refuges consisting of five different plant species each, planted next to a maize crop in Lima, Peru, to investigate which refuge favoured natural control of herbivores considered as pests of maize in Peru, and which refuge plant traits were more attractive to those desirable enemies. Insects occurring in all the plants, including the maize crop itself, were sampled weekly during the crop growing cycle, from February to June 2011. All individuals collected were identified and classified into three functional groups: herbivores, parasitoids, and predators. Refuges were compared based on their effectiveness in enhancing the populations of predator and parasitoid insects of the crop enemies. Refuges A and B were the most effective, showing the highest richness and abundance of both predators and parasitoids, including several insect species that are reported to attack the main insect pests of maize (Spodoptera frugiperda and Rhopalosiphum maidis), as well as other species that serve as alternative hosts of these natural enemies.
Project description:Herbivore populations are regulated by bottom-up control through food availability and quality and by top-down control through natural enemies. Intensive agricultural monocultures provide abundant food to specialized herbivores and at the same time negatively impact natural enemies because monocultures are depauperate in carbohydrate food sources required by many natural enemies. As a consequence, herbivores are released from both types of control. Diversifying intensive cropping systems with flowering plants that provide nutritional resources to natural enemies may enhance top-down control and contribute to natural herbivore regulation. We analyzed how noncrop flowering plants planted as "companion plants" inside cabbage (Brassica oleracea) fields and as margins along the fields affect the plant-herbivore-parasitoid-predator food web. We combined molecular analyses quantifying parasitism of herbivore eggs and larvae with molecular predator gut content analysis and a comprehensive predator community assessment. Planting cornflowers (Centaurea cynanus), which have been shown to attract and selectively benefit Microplitis mediator, a larval parasitoid of the cabbage moth Mamestra brassicae, between the cabbage heads shifted the balance between trophic levels. Companion plants significantly increased parasitism of herbivores by larval parasitoids and predation on herbivore eggs. They furthermore significantly affected predator species richness. These effects were present despite the different treatments being close relative to the parasitoids' mobility. These findings demonstrate that habitat manipulation can restore top-down herbivore control in intensive crops if the right resources are added. This is important because increased natural control reduces the need for pesticide input in intensive agricultural settings, with cascading positive effects on general biodiversity and the environment. Companion plants thus increase biodiversity both directly, by introducing new habitats and resources for other species, and indirectly by reducing mortality of nontarget species due to pesticides. This study provides a comprehensive assessment of how habitat manipulation affects biocontrol services of a natural enemy community including both parasitoids and generalist predators. The trophic interactions between pests, parasitoids and predators were determined to achieve a better systemic understanding of top-down herbivore control, which can be strengthened when natural enemies complement each other or dampened by intraguild interactions. Our approach to selectively enhance the third trophic level to counteract specific herbivores was successful for both predators and parasitoids. Our results show significant positive effects of companion plants on predation of pest eggs and parasitism of pest larvae. Importantly, our data also suggest that carabids, staphylinids and spiders do not substantially interfere with parasitoid biocontrol as parasitoid DNA was rarely detected in predator guts.
Project description:Predation influences prey diversity and productivity while it effectuates the flux and reallocation of organic nutrients into biomass at higher trophic levels. However, it is unknown how bacterivorous protists are influenced by the diversity of their bacterial prey. Using 456 microcosms, in which different bacterial mixtures with equal initial cell numbers were exposed to single or multiple predators (Tetrahymena sp., Poterioochromonas sp. and Acanthamoeba sp.), we showed that increasing prey richness enhanced production of single predators. The extent of the response depended, however, on predator identity. Bacterial prey richness had a stabilizing effect on predator performance in that it reduced variability in predator production. Further, prey richness tended to enhance predator evenness in the predation experiment including all three protists predators (multiple predation experiment). However, we also observed a negative relationship between prey richness and predator production in multiple predation experiments. Mathematical analysis of potential ecological mechanisms of positive predator diversity-functioning relationships revealed predator complementarity as a factor responsible for both enhanced predator production and prey reduction. We suggest that the diversity at both trophic levels interactively determines protistan performance and might have implications in microbial ecosystem processes and services.
Project description:Agricultural intensification has been shown to result in a decline in biodiversity across many taxa, but the changes in community structure and species interactions remain little understood. We have analysed and compared the structure of feeding interactions for cereal aphids and their primary and secondary parasitoids in organically and conventionally managed winter wheat fields using quantitative food web metrics (interaction evenness, generality, vulnerability, link density). Despite little variation in the richness of each trophic group, food web structures between the two farming systems differed remarkably. In contrast to common expectations, aphids and primary parasitoids were characterized by (1) a higher evenness of interaction frequencies (interaction evenness) in conventional fields, which cascaded to interactions at the next trophic level, with (2) a higher interaction evenness, (3) a higher ratio of primary parasitoid taxa per secondary parasitoid (generality) and (4) a higher link density. Aphid communities in the organically managed fields almost exclusively consisted of a single ear-colonizing species, Sitobion avenae, while highly fertilized conventional fields were mainly infested by leaf-colonizing aphids that benefit from the nutritional status of winter wheat. In conclusion, agricultural intensification appears to foster the complexity of aphid-parasitoid food webs, thereby not supporting the general expectation on the importance of organic farming practices for species richness and food web complexity.
Project description:Agricultural intensification (AI) is currently a major driver of biodiversity loss and related ecosystem functioning decline. However, spatio-temporal changes in community structure induced by AI, and their relation to ecosystem functioning, remain largely unexplored. Here, we analysed 16 quantitative cereal aphid-parasitoid and parasitoid-hyperparasitoid food webs, replicated four times during the season, under contrasting AI regimes (organic farming in complex landscapes vs. conventional farming in simple landscapes). High AI increased food web complexity but also temporal variability in aphid-parasitoid food webs and in the dominant parasitoid species identity. Enhanced complexity and variability appeared to be controlled bottom-up by changes in aphid dominance structure and evenness. Contrary to the common expectations of positive biodiversity-ecosystem functioning relationships, community complexity (food-web complexity, species richness and evenness) was negatively related to primary parasitism rates. However, this relationship was positive for secondary parasitoids. Despite differences in community structures among different trophic levels, ecosystem services (parasitism rates) and disservices (aphid abundances and hyperparasitism rates) were always higher in fields with low AI. Hence, community structure and ecosystem functioning appear to be differently influenced by AI, and change differently over time and among trophic levels. In conclusion, intensified agriculture can support diverse albeit highly variable parasitoid-host communities, but ecosystem functioning might not be easy to predict from observed changes in community structure and composition.
Project description:Insects visit flowers not only to forage for nectar or pollen but also to search for hosts or prey, and to look for suitable habitats for breeding sites. In oil palm flowers, it has been documented that not all flower-visiting insects are pollinators, but some insects are recognized as predators, parasitoids or saprophages, which may affect the abundance and persistence of the weevil pollinating oil palm, <i>Elaeidobius kamerunicus</i>. We studied the community of oil palm flower-visiting insects and investigated the covariation between the abundance <i>E. kamerunicus</i> and that of other dominant species. Ecological research was conducted in oil palm plantations with different tree ages in Central Borneo. Our results found that tree age and flower type of oil palm did not influence the abundance and species richness of flower-visiting insects, but significantly affected their species composition. There was a significant positive relationship between the abundance of <i>E. kamerunicus</i> and the fly <i>Scaptodrosophila</i> sp, indicating that these species covariate in oil palm flowers. These findings suggest that understanding the covariation between <i>E. kamerunicus</i> and <i>Scaptodrosophila</i> sp may help develop the conservation strategies for <i>E. kamerunicus</i> to support the sustainable production of oil palm.
Project description:Landscape management affects species interactions and can have notable effects on food web structure. Local parasitoid populations in greenhouses usually migrate from outside crops; biological control of greenhouse aphids may be thus highly dependent on the composition of surrounding landscape. However, it is less clear how surrounding landscape composition affects primary-hyperparasitoid food webs and pest control services in greenhouses. We investigated the food web of parasitoids on melon-cotton aphid (Aphis gossypii Glover) in watermelon greenhouses in two suburban Beijing counties over two years. We used the quantitative food web metrics (generality, vulnerability, link density, and interaction evenness) to assess the effects of landscape composition on primary-hyperparasitoid food web structure. We found that landscape with more cropland within 1-3?km tended to have more primary parasitoids per hyperparasitoid species (generality). Higher proportions of woodland at the 0.5?km scale were negatively correlated with the mean numbers of hyperparasitoid per primary parasitoid species (vulnerability), as well as with hyperparasitism rate and hyperparasitoid richness. Link density, interaction evenness and aphid mortality caused by parasitoids (parasitism rate) were not affected by landscape factors. However, active primary parasitism (biocontrol potential) increased with the proportion of woodland. This suggested that the bottom-up effect induced by primary parasitoids might benefit hyperparasitoids, thus exerting little influence of primary parasitoids on pest control. The top-down effect of hyperparasitoids may reduce with increasing woodland proportion. To enhance the effects of primary parasitoids, landscape management programs should also target, and thus limit the impact of hyperparasitoids.
Project description:Urban trees serve a critical conservation function by supporting arthropod and vertebrate communities but are often subject to arthropod pest infestations. Native trees are thought to support richer arthropod communities than exotic trees but may also be more susceptible to herbivorous pests. Exotic trees may be less susceptible to herbivores but provide less conservation value as a consequence. We tested the hypotheses that native species in Acer and Quercus would have more herbivorous pests than exotic congeners and different communities of arthropod natural enemies. The density of scale insects, common urban tree pests, was greatest on a native Acer and a native Quercus than exotic congeners in both years of our research (2012 and 2016) and sometimes reached damaging levels. However, differences in predator and parasitoid abundance, diversity, and communities were not consistent between native and exotic species in either genus and were generally similar. For example, in 2012 neither predator nor parasitoid abundance differed among native and exotic Acer congeners but in 2016 a native species, A. saccharum, had the least of both groups. A native, Q. phellos, had significantly more predators and parasitoids in 2012 than its native and exotic congeners but no differences in 2016. Parasitoid communities were significantly different among Acer species and Quercus species due in each case to greater abundance of a single family on one native tree species. These native and exotic tree species could help conserve arthropod natural enemies and achieve pest management goals.
Project description:Evidence from grassland experiments suggests that a plant community's phylogenetic diversity (PD) is a strong predictor of ecosystem processes, even stronger than species richness per se This has, however, never been extended to species-rich forests and host-parasitoid interactions. We used cavity-nesting Hymenoptera and their parasitoids collected in a subtropical forest as a model system to test whether hosts, parasitoids, and their interactions are influenced by tree PD and a comprehensive set of environmental variables, including tree species richness. Parasitism rate and parasitoid abundance were positively correlated with tree PD. All variables describing parasitoids decreased with elevation, and were, except parasitism rate, dependent on host abundance. Quantitative descriptors of host-parasitoid networks were independent of the environment. Our study indicates that host-parasitoid interactions in species-rich forests are related to the PD of the tree community, which influences parasitism rates through parasitoid abundance. We show that effects of tree community PD are much stronger than effects of tree species richness, can cascade to high trophic levels, and promote trophic interactions. As during habitat modification phylogenetic information is usually lost non-randomly, even species-rich habitats may not be able to continuously provide the ecosystem process parasitism if the evolutionarily most distinct plant lineages vanish.
Project description:Land-use intensification and resulting habitat loss are put forward as the main causes of flower visitor decline. However, the impact of urbanization, the prime driver of land-use intensification in Europe, is poorly studied. In particular, our understanding of whether and how it affects the composition and functioning of flower visitor assemblages is scant, yet required to cope with increasing urbanization worldwide. Here, we use a nation-wide dataset of plant-flower visitor (Coleoptera, Diptera, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera) interactions sampled by citizen scientists following a standardized protocol to assess macroecological changes in richness and composition of flower visitor communities with urbanization. We measured the community composition by quantifying the relative occurrence of generalist and specialist flower visitors based on their specialisation on flowering plant families. We show that urbanization is associated with reduced flower visitor richness and a shift in community composition toward generalist insects, indicating a modification of the functional composition of communities. These results suggest that urbanization affects not only the richness of flower visitor assemblages but may also cause their large-scale functional homogenization. Future research should focus on designing measures to reconcile urban development with flower visitor conservation.