• abundance;
  • bottom-up factors;
  • geographical range;
  • host-plant quality;
  • macroecology;
  • spatial structure;
  • top-down factors


  • 1
    Spatial variation and covariation in host-plant quality, herbivore abundance and herbivore mortality were examined across the natural geographical range in Europe of holly Ilex aquifolium and the host-specific holly leaf-miner Phytomyza ilicis.
  • 2
    Although measures of host-plant quality showed substantial between-site variation, no simple spatial pattern in any of the measures (only phosphorus content and leaf mass showed correlations with latitude, longitude or altitude) was detected, and few correlations with tree or local site characteristics.
  • 3
    In contrast, measures of the abundance of the leaf-miner exhibited marked spatial patterns, resulting in a lack of simple covariance between leaf-miner abundance and host-plant quality.
  • 4
    Different apparent mortalities of the leaf-miner exhibited varied spatial patterns in their intensity, but no evidence of range-wide density dependence, again resulting in few patterns of covariance between intensity of mortality and measures of host-plant quality.
  • 5
    The population dynamics of the holly leaf-miner across its geographical range are complex. At any site, the mortality that a population experiences is the sum of largely independent yet spatially structured components, against a background of varying host-plant quality. Despite lacking any marked spatial structure, host-plant quality may have important local effects. These are difficult to detect regionally, and thus may principally contribute noise to regional patterns of levels of oviposition, abundance and mortality.