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Effects of native and exotic congeners on diversity of invertebrate natural enemies, available spider biomass, and pest control services in residential landscapes

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Exotic plants are common in urban landscapes and are often planted by landscape managers in an effort to reduce herbivory damage and improve landscape aesthetics. However, exotic plants may be less palatable to many native insects and reduce herbivore biomass that may fuel higher trophic levels. Furthermore, a loss of herbivores in exotic ornamental landscapes may reduce top-down control by natural enemies. In this study, we compare herbivory in native and exotic congener ornamental landscapes. We also explore if caterpillar abundance, natural enemy abundance, diversity, community composition, spider biomass, and egg predation differ between the two landscape types. We predicted that herbivory, as well as natural enemy abundance and predation would be greater in native landscapes. Although we found that leaf area lost to herbivory was greater in native plots in one of the collection years, this relationship was weak. Natural enemy diversity differed between landscape types, but depended on plant genus. The relationship between plant origin and natural enemy diversity was also weak. Caterpillar abundance, natural enemy community composition, spider biomass, and predation services did not differ between treatments. Overall, our results suggest that ornamental landscapes planted in native plants may not differ from landscapes planted in exotic congeners in the pest management and conservation services they provide, particularly with regard to invertebrate natural enemies. However, our findings cannot be used to make more general claims about plant origin, especially with regard to native plants and non-congeners, as we only compared ornamental landscapes with native plants and their exotic congeners in this study. We conclude that for optimizing natural enemy diversity and biomass on city landscapes, plant choice and other plant traits may be as important as plant origin to consider. Our work demonstrates that both native and exotic congener ornamental landscapes provide valuable ecosystem services and will help guide landscape design that serves both the people and wildlife that use them.

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We thank Matt Greenstone, Mary Cornelius, Dawn Gundersen-Rindal with USDA-ARS-BARC for sharing their plots with us at the U.S. Arboretum and providing helpful advice and thoughts along the way. We thank Tom Wentworth, George Hess, and Michael Reiskind, who provided helpful guidance on this journey. We also thank Elsa Youngsteadt, Emily Griffith, and Michael Just for statistical guidance and feedback. We thank Matt Bertone, who provided helpful identification advice, as well as Annemarie Nagle, Leo Kerner, Cat Crofton, Ian McAreavy, Danielle Schmidt, Nicole Bissonnette, Aimee Dalsimer, Janis Arrojado, Kelly Harris, Logan Tyson, Doua Jim Lor, Tommy Pleasant, Anna Holmquist and all of the dedicated lab members who helped collect and analyze data for this project. This project was supported, in part, by Cooperative Agreement no. G15AP00153 from the United States Geological Survey. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of the Interior Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center or the USGS. Funding for this work was also provided by the Southeast Climate Adaptation Science Center graduate fellowship awarded to S.E.P. The North Carolina State University Department of Entomology also contributed support for this research, as well as the Office of Undergraduate Research at NC State University.

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SEP and SDF conceived of experimental design. SEP and LMK collected and analyzed the data. All authors contributed to drafts and gave approval for publication.

Correspondence to Sarah E. Parsons.

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Parsons, S.E., Kerner, L.M. & Frank, S.D. Effects of native and exotic congeners on diversity of invertebrate natural enemies, available spider biomass, and pest control services in residential landscapes. Biodivers Conserv (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-020-01932-8

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  • Biological control
  • Native
  • Exotic
  • Urban landscape
  • Biodiversity