Eur. J. Entomol. 105 (3): 467-476, 2008 | 10.14411/eje.2008.060

Agricultural policy-induced landscape changes: effects on carabid abundance and their biocontrol potential

Olga AMEIXA, Pavel KINDLMANN
Department of Theoretical Ecology, Institute of Systems Biology and Ecology AS CR and University of South Bohemia, Branišovská 31, CZ-370 05 České Budějovice, Czech Republic; e-mail: olgameixa@portugalmail.pt

One of the most important services provided by biodiversity is thought to be the biological control of pests in agricultural landscapes, including aphids on cereals. The food webs potentially contributing to biological control of aphids primarily consist of polyphagous predators, parasitoids and pathogens. The problems of aphid pests have increased greatly since the 1970-ies, possibly as an effect of agricultural intensification, which is thought to have reduced diversity and abundance of these predators and parasites and consequently their biocontrol potential. The main objective of this study was to test this by measuring this potential for biological control of aphids, and relate it to agricultural intensification and predator abundance. We selected 30 farms distributed along agricultural intensification gradients, based on the amount of fertilizers applied per hectare. Estimates of ground-living predator density were obtained using pitfall trapping over a one-week period. Traps were placed inside the cereal fields, 10 m from the margin, in 2 replicates per field. Predation risk due to ground-living predators (biocontrol potential) was estimated by monitoring removal of aphids glued to labels. This was done in the same fields, in the immediate vicinity of the traps, over a period of 2 days. The proportion of aphids eaten per unit time was the response variable. We present the correlations between intensity of agricultural exploitation, predator abundance and biocontrol potential. The outcomes are not straightforward in that intensification begets a reduction in predator density and biocontrol potential. We discuss the potential confounding issues that might have affected our results.

Keywords: Agricultural intensification, biocontrol, density, diversity, species richness, food webs, predatory pressure

Accepted: April 9, 2008; Published: July 31, 2008

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