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Landscape composition mediates the relationship between predator body size and pest control

Citation

Perez-Alvarez, Ricardo; Grab, Heather; Polyakov, Anthony; Poveda, Katja (2021), Landscape composition mediates the relationship between predator body size and pest control, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.cfxpnvx4j

Abstract

Understanding the mechanisms contributing to positive relationships between predator diversity and natural pest control is fundamental to inform more effective management practices to support sustainable crop production. Predator body size can provide important insights to better understand and predict such predator-pest interactions. Yet, most studies exploring the link between predator body size and pest control have been conducted in species-poor communities under controlled environmental conditions, limiting our ability to generalize this relationship across heterogeneous landscapes. Using the community of naturally occurring ground beetles in cabbage fields, we examined how landscape composition (percent cropland) influences the size structure (mean, variance, and skewness of body size distribution) of predator communities and the subsequent effects on pest control. We found that predator communities shifted their size distribution towards larger body sizes in agriculturally dominated landscapes. This pattern arose from increasing numerical dominance of a few large-bodied species rather than an aggregated response across the community. Such landscape-driven changes in community size structure led to concomitant impacts on pest control, as the mean body size of predators was positively related to predation rates. Notably, the magnitude of pest control depended not only on the size of the dominant predators but was also strongly determined by the relative proportion of small vs. large-bodied species (i.e., skewness). Predation rates were higher in predator assemblages with even representation of small and large-bodied species relative to communities dominated by either large or small-bodied predators. Landscape composition may therefore modulate the relationship between predator body size and pest control by influencing the body size distribution of co-occurring species. Our study highlights the need to consider agricultural practices that not only boost effective predators, but also sustain a predator assemblage with a diverse set of traits to maximize overall pest control.

Usage Notes

File description: This file contains the activity density, species richness, species evenness, species diversity, and body size structure (i.e., mean, diversity and symmetry) of naturally occurring carabid communities collected in pitfall traps on 11 farms located across a gradient of landscape complexity in the Finger Lakes Region of New York State (USA), during the summers of 2014 and 2015. 

Date of data collection: June-September 2014, June-October 2015.

Geographical location of data collection: the field work was conducted in 43 experimental fields in the Finger Lakes Region, NY, USA.

 

Funding

National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Award: 2019-67013-29367

Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station Federal Capacity Fund

National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Award: NYC139748

National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Award: 2018-67012-27978

Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station Federal Capacity Fund