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Population dynamics of cereal aphids: influence of a shared predator and weather

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1 Aphid populations may show strong year-to-year fluctuations, but questions remain regarding the dominance of factors that cause this variation, especially the role of natural enemies. To better understand the dynamics of aphid species that occur as pests in cereals, we investigated the relative influence of top-down control by a predator and weather (temperature and precipitation) on population fluctuations of three cereal aphid species.

2 From 1987 to 2005, populations of Metopolophium dirhodum, Sitobion avenae and Rhopalosiphum padi in insecticide-free stands of winter wheat were monitored in the Praha-Ruzyn√© region of the Czech Republic. Densities of an aphidophagous predator, the ladybeetle Coccinella septempunctata, were recorded from an overwintering site in the landscape. Weather was quantified using historical records.

3 A significant bottom-up effect of densities of aphids on those of C.septempunctata was found, but evidence of direct top-down regulation of aphids by C.septempunctata was only significant in the case of R.padi. There was no significant periodicity in the dynamics of the aphid or C.septempunctata, suggesting that there was no clear predator-prey cycle. Combinations of C.septempunctata and weather variables could be used to explain M.dirhodum and R.padi per capita rate of change. There were also indications that weather directly affected peak density of M.dirhodum.

4 We conclude that regional estimates of C.septempunctata densities are not sufficient to determine whether aphid population dynamics are driven by predator–prey interactions. Feasibility of time series analysis as an investigative tool in aphid population dynamics studies is discussed.

Keywords: Coccinella septempunctata; Metopolophium dirhodum; Rhopalosiphum padi; Sitobion avenae; partial rate correlation function; population dynamics; predator-prey interaction; time series analysis

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Department of Plant Sciences, Group Crop and Weed Ecology, Wageningen University, PO Box 430, 6700 AK, Wageningen, The Netherlands 2: CSIRO Entomology, Meiers Road 120, Indooroopilly, QLD 4068, Australia 3: Research Institute of Crop Production, Drnovska 507, CZ-16106, Praha-Ruzyně, Czech Republic

Publication date: February 1, 2009


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