Species richness and parasitism in a fragmented landscape: experiments and field studies with insects on Vicia sepium
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Effects of habitat fragmentation on species diversity and herbivore-parasitoid interactions were analyzed using the insect community of seed feeders and their parasitoids in the pods of the bush vetch (Vicia sepium L.). Field studies were carried out on 18 old meadows differing in area and isolation. The area of these meadows was found to be the major determinant of species diversity and population abundance of endophagous insects. Effects of isolation were further analyzed experimentally using 16 small plots with potted vetch plants isolated by 100–500 m from vetch populations on large old meadows. The results showed that colonization success greatly decreased with increasing isolation. In both cases, insect species were not equally affected. Parasitoids suffered more from habitat loss and isolation than their phytophagous hosts. Minimum area requirements, calculated from logistic regressions, were higher for parasitoids than for herbivores. In addition, percent parasitism of the herbivores significantly decreased with area loss and increasing isolation of Vicia sepium plots, supporting the trophic-level hypothesis of island biogeography. Species with high rates of absence on meadows and isolated plant plots were not only characterized by their high trophic level, but also by low abundance and high spatial population variability. Thus conservation of large and less isolated habitat remnants enhances species diversity and parasitism of potential pest insects, i.e., the stability of ecosystem functions.
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