New paper out: Parasitoid diversity reduces the variability in pest control services

My latest paper from the organic farms study in the UK has just come out. You can download from here or contact me for a copy.

Macfadyen, S., Craze, P., Polaszek, A., van Achterberg, K. & Memmott, J. (2011) Parasitoid diversity reduces the variability in pest control services across time on farms. Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 278: 3387-3394.
doi:10.1098/rspb.2010.2673

Abstract

Recent declines in biodiversity have increased interest in the link between biodiversity and the provision and sustainability of ecosystem services across space and time. We mapped the complex network of interactions between herbivores and parasitoids to examine the relationship between parasitoid species richness, functional group diversity and the provision of natural pest control services. Quantitative food webs were constructed for 10 organic and 10 conventional farms. Parasitoid species richness varied from 26 to 58 species and we found a significant positive relationship between parasitoid species richness and temporal stability in parasitism rates. Higher species richness was associated with lower variation in parasitism rate. A functional group analysis showed significantly greater parasitoid species complementarity on organic farms, with on average more species in each functional group. We simulated parasitoid removal to predict whether organic farms experienced greater robustness of parasitism in the face of local extinctions. This analysis showed no consistent differences between the organic and conventional farm pairs in terms of loss of pest control service. Finally, it was found that the different habitats that make up each farm do not contribute equally to parasitoid species diversity, and that hedgerows produced more parasitoid species, significantly more so on organic farms.

Presentation of research at INTECOL next week

The 10th International Congress of Ecology is on in Brisbane next week (16-21st August)

I am due to give a presentation in the Ecosystem Services symposium (Tuesday 18th 3:15pm Mezzanine 2). The presentation abstract is here:

The provision of the ecosystem service of pest control on farms now and in the future

Sarina Macfadyen1, Rachel Gibson2, Paul Craze3, William O.C. Symondson4, Jane Memmott2

1CSIRO Entomology
2School of Biological Sciences, University of Bristol
3Biology and Environmental Science, University of Sussex
4Cardiff School of Biosciences, Cardiff University

A precautionary approach to biodiversity management is often justified on the basis that the maintenance of a diversity of species is useful for the provision of a particular ecosystem service now and as a form biological ‘insurance’ against disturbances in the future. Natural pest control is one ecosystem service that is thought to be threatened by agricultural intensification. Here we examine the complex network of interactions between insect herbivores and their parasitoids to understand the relationship between parasitoid species richness, functional group diversity and the provision of natural pest control services across time. We utilise 20 farms that display a gradient of parasitoid species richness as a result of farming system. We hypotheses firstly, that there will be a strong correlation between parasitoid species richness and variability in parasitism rate at the whole-farm level. Secondly, those farms with greater parasitoid species richness within functional groups will experience better pest control services in the future. Finally, we use species interactions to identify the key parasitoid species important for providing pest control services in this context.