Visit to Toowoomba as part of the ‘Pest suppressive landscapes’ project

We (Mick Neave and I) recently spent a few nights in Toowoomba QLD as part of the first project meeting for the ‘Pest suppressive landscapes’ project (funded by GRDC). Amongst other activities we went on a quick tour of the grain growing region around near Toowoomba to examine potential sites for this project and had a go at beat sheeting for invertebrates in native vegetation patches. Many thanks to the QLD team members for their hospitality.

Nancy, Felix and Dave selecting a shrub to beat

Nancy, Felix and Dave selecting a shrub to beat

Nancy using her 'shaking' method to collect invertebrates onto the beat sheet

Nancy using her 'shaking' method to collect invertebrates onto the beat sheet

Interesting paper

Compartments in a marine food web associated with phylogeny, body mass, and habitat structure
Ecology Letters (2009) 12(8), 779-788
Enrico L. Rezende, Eva M. Albert, Miguel A. Fortuna, Jordi Bascompte

doi: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01327.x

Rezende et al. examined network structure in a marine food web (containing 3313 interactions between 249 species/trophic groups!) and unequivocally showed the presence of compartments (or subunits) in this network. These are link-dense regions of the network where species interact more closely with other species within the module than between modules. Modules may may be important for the propagation of disturbance impacts throughout a network.  More importantly Rezende et al. identified some potential mechanisms behind this interesting network structure (body size, phylogeny and spatial structure).  Shark species played an important role in this network.

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.