Spillover edge effects: the dispersal of agriculturally subsidized insect natural enemies into adjacent natural habitats


* E-mail: trand@unlserve.unl.edu


The cross-edge spillover of subsidized predators from anthropogenic to natural habitats is an important process affecting wildlife, especially bird, populations in fragmented landscapes. However, the importance of the spillover of insect natural enemies from agricultural to natural habitats is unknown, despite the abundance of studies examining movement in the opposite direction. Here, we synthesize studies from various ecological sub-disciplines to suggest that spillover of agriculturally subsidized insect natural enemies may be an important process affecting prey populations in natural habitat fragments. This contention is based on (1) the ubiquity of agricultural–natural edges in human dominated landscapes; (2) the substantial literature illustrating that crop and natural habitats share important insect predators; and (3) the clear importance of the landscape matrix, specifically distance to ecological edges, in influencing predator impacts in agroecosystems. Further support emerges from theory on the importance of cross-boundary subsidies for within site consumer–resource dynamics. In particular, high productivity and temporally variable resource abundance in agricultural systems are predicted to result in strong spillover effects. More empirical work examining the prevalence and significance of such natural enemy spillover will be critical to a broader understanding of fragmentation impacts on insect predator–prey interactions.