Ecosystem service providers in agricultural landscapes

We have a visitor from France here as part of a work placement traineeship. Blandine Prache is doing some research focused on  understanding the ecology and identity of insect species involved in the provision of ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes. Her work is in two areas:

1. Understanding the community of bees that occurs  in an agricultural landscape with bee-pollinated crops.  Canola is grown in fields not far from Canberra and we want to know how many different bee species occur in these fields, when these bees are active, and whether the bee community is influenced by other parts of the landscape such as woodland patches and pastures. Blandine has been putting traps to catch native bees each week during spring and the start of summer. This work is being completed with the help of Saul Cunningham.

Blandine and Mick return after placing a bee trap in a canola field

Blandine and Mick return after placing a bee trap in a canola field

A bee trap on the edge of a canola field

A bee trap on the edge of a canola field

2. Examining the parasitic natural enemies of a  leaf-mining moth (Dialectica scalariella) that was released as a biocontrol agent for patterson’s curse (Echium plantagineum). Blandine has been collecting the miners and rearing them in the laboratory to see if they have been attacked by parasitic wasps.

patterson's curse: a common argicultural weed in our area

Patterson's curse: a common agricultural weed in our area

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.