Disturbance effects on community structure of Ficus tinctoria fig wasps in Xishuangbanna, China: Implications for the fig/fig wasp mutualism


Da-Rong Yang, Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden, Chinese Academy of Sciences, No. 88, Xuefu Road, Kunming 650223, Yunnan Province, China. Tel: +86 0871 5127180; fax: +86 0871 5160916; email: yangdr@xtbg.ac.cn


Abstract  Fig trees are important components of tropical forests, because their fruits are eaten by so many vertebrates, but they depend on pollinating fig wasps to produce mature fruits. Disturbance to habitat structure can have a major impact on insect diversity and composition, potentially reducing fruit yields. We investigated the impact of habitat disturbance on the fig wasp community associated with male figs of Ficus tinctoria in Xishuangbanna, China. The community comprised one pollinator species Liporrhopalum gibbosae and six non-pollinating wasp species: Sycoscapter sp.1, Philotrypesis ravii, Philotrypesis sp.1, Neosycophila omeomorpha, Sycophila sp.1, and Walkerella sp.1. More disturbed areas were characterized by higher temperatures, less shade, and more vehicle noise. The response of the fig wasp community was complex, with no simple relationship between intensity of disturbance and pollinator abundance. However, the sex ratios (proportion of male progeny) of pollinators increased significantly in more disturbed areas. We conclude that potential changes in fig wasp community composition brought about by disturbance, are unpredictable, with unclear consequences for tropical rainforest biodiversity.