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Spillover of Agriculturally Subsidized Predators as a Potential Threat to Native Insect Herbivores in Fragmented Landscapes

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Habitat loss and fragmentation can have strong negative impacts on populations of some native species. Spillover of generalist natural enemies from the surrounding landscape matrix is one mechanism potentially generating such effects, yet this has been rarely studied in insects. We examined the influence of habitat conversion to agriculture on the abundance and potential effects of predatory coccinellid beetles on native insect herbivores within 12 grassland remnants in central Nebraska (U.S.A.). Results of sweep sampling revealed that coccinellids were three to six times more abundant at native grassland sites embedded within cropland-dominated landscapes compared with control sites in grassland-dominated landscapes over the 3 years of the study. Exclusion experiments further demonstrated that predation intensity was strongly related to coccinellid abundances across sites and that coccinellids can dramatically reduce densities of a native aphid herbivore. In contrast to studies of specialized insect parasitoids, which have generally found reduced enemy pressure in fragmented landscapes, our results suggest that native herbivores may in some cases experience increased consumer pressure in landscapes with increasing habitat loss because of spillover of generalist predators from surrounding cropland habitats.
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Keywords: depredación excedente; fragmentación; fragmentation; habitat loss; interacciones tróficas; landscape matrix; matriz del paisaje; pérdida de hábitat; spatial subsidies; spillover predation; subsidios espaciales; trophic interactions

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, NE 68588-0118, U.S.A.

Publication date: 01 December 2006

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