, Volume 28, Issue 2, pp 217-231
Date: 16 Nov 2012

Explaining host–parasitoid interactions at the landscape scale: a new approach for calibration and sensitivity analysis of complex spatio-temporal models

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Linking spatial pattern and process is a difficult task in landscape ecology because spatial patterns of populations result from complex factors such as individual traits, the spatio-temporal variation of the habitat, and the relationships between the target species and other species. Mechanistic models provide tools to bridge this gap but they are seldom used to study the influence of landscape patterns on biological processes. In this paper, we develop a methodological approach based on sensitivity and multivariate analyses to investigate the relationship between the biological parameters of species and landscape characteristics. As a case study, we used a tritrophic system that includes a host plant (oilseed rape, Brassica napus L.), a pest of the host plant (the pollen beetle, Meligethes aeneus F.), and the main parasitoid of the pest (Tersilochus heterocerus). This tritrophic system was recently represented by a model (Mosaic-Pest) that is spatially explicit at the landscape scale and that includes 32 biological parameters. In the current study, model simulations were compared with observed data from 35 landscapes differing in configuration. Sensitivity analysis using the Morris method identified those biological parameters that were highly sensitive to landscape configuration. Then, multivariate analyses revealed how a parameter’s influence on model output could be affected by landscape composition. Comparison of simulated and observed data helped us decrease the uncertainty surrounding the estimated values of the literature-derived parameters describing beetle dispersal and stage transition of the parasitoid at emergence. The advantages of using multivariate sensitivity analyses to disentangle the links between patterns and processes in landscape-scale spatially explicit models are discussed.