The relationship between agricultural intensification and biological control: experimental tests across Europe

Authors


  • Corresponding Editor: M. P. Ayres.

Abstract

Agricultural intensification can affect biodiversity and related ecosystem services such as biological control, but large-scale experimental evidence is missing. We examined aphid pest populations in cereal fields under experimentally reduced densities of (1) ground-dwelling predators (−G), (2) vegetation-dwelling predators and parasitoids (−V), (3) a combination of (1) and (2) (−G−V), compared with open-fields (control), in contrasting landscapes with low vs. high levels of agricultural intensification (AI), and in five European regions. Aphid populations were 28%, 97%, and 199% higher in −G, −V, and −G−V treatments, respectively, compared to the open fields, indicating synergistic effects of both natural-enemy groups. Enhanced parasitoid : host and predator : prey ratios were related to reduced aphid population density and population growth. The relative importance of parasitoids and vegetation-dwelling predators greatly differed among European regions, and agricultural intensification affected biological control and aphid density only in some regions. This shows a changing role of species group identity in diverse enemy communities and a need to consider region-specific landscape management.

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