Eur. J. Entomol. 105 (3): 411-420, 2008 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2008.052

Effects of habitat loss and fragmentation on the abundance and species richness of aphidophagous beetles and aphids in experimental alfalfa landscapes

Audrey A. GREZ1, Tania ZAVIEZO2, Sandra DÍAZ1, Bernardino CAMOUSSEIGT1, Galaxia CORTÉS1
1 Facultad de Ciencias Veterinarias y Pecuarias, Universidad de Chile, Casilla 2, Correo 15, La Granja, Santiago, Chile; e-mail: agrez@uchile.cl
2 Facultad de Agronomía e Ingeniería Forestal, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 306-22, Santiago, Chile

In agro-ecosystems, habitat loss and fragmentation may alter the assemblage of aphidophagous insects, such as foliar-foraging (coccinellids) and ground-foraging predators (carabids), potentially affecting intraguild interactions. We evaluated how habitat loss (0, 55 and 84%), fragmentation (1, 4 and 16 fragments) and their combination affected the abundance and species richness of coccinellids and carabids, and aphid abundance, both in the short-term (summer: December to February) and over a longer time span (autumn: March to May), when different demographic mechanisms may participate. We created four types of 30 × 30 m patches (landscapes) in which alfalfa was grown: Control (1F - 0%, 30 × 30 m patch of alfalfa with no fragmentation or habitat loss), 4F - 55% (4 alfalfa fragments, with 55% total habitat loss), 4F - 84% (4 alfalfa fragments, with 84% total habitat loss), and 16F - 84% (16 alfalfa fragments, with 84% total habitat loss). Each landscape type was replicated five times. Insects were sampled by sweep-netting and pitfall traps, from December (summer) to May (autumn). Total abundance and species richness of carabids, in the short-term, was highest in the 16F - 84% landscapes. Total abundance of adult coccinellids was similar among landscapes, but at the species level Hyperaspis sphaeridioides, in the short-term, and Adalia bipunctata, in the long-term, had their highest densities in fragments within landscapes with high habitat loss (84%), independently of habitat fragmentation. Species richness in the long-term was higher in the landscapes with 84% habitat loss. Among aphids, in the long term Aphis craccivora was less abundant in landscapes with high habitat loss and fragmentation (16-84%), while Therioaphis trifolii showed the opposite trend. These results suggest that habitat loss and fragmentation may increase the density and diversity of aphidophagous insects, while their effects on aphids are more variable.

Keywords: Habitat fragmentation, habitat loss, experimental landscapes, coccinellids, carabids, aphids, alfalfa

Received: September 27, 2007; Accepted: January 15, 2008; Published: July 31, 2008

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