Comparing assemblages of Asteraceae and their insect herbivores under different land-use regimens

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Abstract

Accelerated tropical landscape changes occurring over recent decades have produced environmental mosaics comprising remaining isolated green areas and mixed land-use types. Our objective was to study the effects of alterations in the natural landscape on the species composition and structure of assemblages of Asteraceae and their endophagous insects through comparisons between cerrado (savanna), pastures and Eucalyptus stands. We first investigated whether similarities between assemblages of Asteraceae and their insects varied among land uses or localities. Secondly, we asked whether assemblages of Eucalyptus stands and pastures are subsets of those within the cerrado. We sampled within randomly deployed transects in 15 areas. Land use was found to be an important factor in determining plant composition similarity; however, locality did not exert any significant influence. Pastures were less similar to one another, suggesting high beta diversity. Similarities among insect assemblages were correlated with plant assemblage composition, but not with land use or locality. Species of Tephritidae were distributed along localities independently of land use. High beta diversity in Asteraceae assemblages among cerrados and pastures was supported by nestedness analysis. Plant assemblages in Eucalyptus stands were subsets of cerrado, but pasture assemblages were only partial subsets. A higher degree of nestedness in insect assemblages than in plant assemblages indicated lower beta diversity within these herbivores. Our data indicate that many herbivores are specialized on widely distributed plant genera. Conservation of Asteraceae species and their flower head insects depends not only on maintenance of landscape fragments but also on the correct matching of management form and land use. Such management may contribute to reducing isolation of plant and insect species by increasing the connectivity of remaining cerrado tracts, allowing population maintenance even at low abundances.

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