Eur. J. Entomol. 111 (5): 649-654, 2014 | 10.14411/eje.2014.082

Quantifying predation pressure along an urbanisation gradient in Denmark using artificial caterpillars

Marco FERRANTE1, Alessandro LO CACCIATO2, Gabor L. LÍVEI1
1 Aarhus University, Department of Agroecology, Flakkebjerg Research Centre, Forgøsvej 1, DK-4200 Slagelse, Denmark; e-mails: marco.ferrante@agrsci.dk; gabor.lovei@agrsci.dk
2 University of Palermo, Faculty of Science, Via Archirafi 28, 90123 Palermo, Italy; e-mail: locacciato-alessandro@live.it

Urbanisation results in a marked modification of habitats and influences several ecological processes, some of which give rise to beneficial ecological services. Natural pest control, the effect of predators on prey is one of such services. We quantified changes in the incidence of predation with increasing levels of urbanisation using artificial caterpillars made of green plasticine. Potential predators can be identified by the "attack marks" they leave on these artificial caterpillars. We conducted this study from May to October 2010 around the city of Sorø (Zealand, Denmark), in forests along an urbanisation gradient (rural-suburban-urban). Artificial caterpillars were placed on the ground in order to obtain an estimate of the incidence of predation at ground level. Half (50%) of the 1398 caterpillars were "attacked" and 28.8% of the bites were those of chewing insects. We attributed the majority of these to carabids, the most common group of ground-active arthropods. Chewing insects exerted the greatest predation pressure in the original forest (52.1%), with lower values recorded in the suburban (10.1%) and urban (16.4%) forest fragments. Ants were responsible for only 4.7% of the attacks in forest, 11.3% in suburban and 16.4% in urban forest fragments. Mammals exerted the highest predation pressure in suburban habitats (22.2% vs. 4.9% in forest, and 8.1% in urban forest fragments).

Keywords: Carabidae, Formicidae, fragmentation, natural enemies, ecosystem services, predation, urbanisation, sentinel prey

Received: January 31, 2014; Accepted: June 12, 2014; Prepublished online: September 12, 2014; Published: December 10, 2014

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