, Volume 116, Issue 3, pp 419-425

Does fragmentation of Urtica habitats affect phytophagous and predatory insects differentially?

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Effects of habitat fragmentation on the insect community of stinging nettle (Urtica dioica L.) were studied, using 32 natural nettle patches of different area and degree of isolation in an agricultural landscape. Habitat fragmentation reduced the species richness of Heteroptera, Auchenorrhyncha, and Coleoptera, and the abundance of populations. Habitat isolation and area reduction did not affect all insect species equally. Monophagous herbivores had a higher probability of absence from small patches than all (monophagous and polyphagous) herbivore species, and the percentage of monophagous herbivores increased with habitat area. Abundance and population variability of species were negatively correlated and could both be used as a predictor of the percentage of occupied habitats. Species richness of herbivores correlated (positively) with habitat area, while species richness of predators correlated (negatively) with habitat isolation. In logistic regressions, the probability of absence of monophagous herbivores from habitat patches could only be explained by habitat area (in 4 out of 10 species) and predator absence probability only by habitat isolation (in 3 out of 14 species). Presumably because of the instability of higher-trophic-level populations and dispersal limitation, predators were more affected by habitat isolation than herbivores, while they did not differ from herbivore populations with respect to abundance or variability. Thus increasing habitat connectivity in the agricultural landscape should primarily promote predator populations.

Received: 4 February 1998 / Accepted: 4 May 1998