Landscape Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 10, pp 2015–2028 | Cite as

Direct and indirect effects of agricultural intensification on a host-parasitoid system on the ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.) in a landscape context

  • Christine Herbst
  • Sabrina Arnold-Schwandner
  • Torsten Meiners
  • Marcell K. Peters
  • Christoph Rothenwöhrer
  • Juliane Steckel
  • Nicole Wäschke
  • Catrin Westphal
  • Elisabeth Obermaier
Research Article



Intensification of land use is known as a major driver of worldwide decline in biodiversity. Trophic interactions might be especially affected by a changing landscape structure due to agricultural intensification.


In this study we investigated the effects of increasing land use intensity on a tritrophic system at different spatial scales in a landscape context.


We examined two weevil species, Mecinus labilis Herbst and M. pascuorum Gyllenhal, as well as their common parasitoid, Mesopolobus incultus Walker, living on a common native herb, the ribwort plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.), at 76 sites in three geographic regions in Germany. The effect of land use intensity on species abundances was analysed across a range of spatial scales (100–2000 m) around the study sites.


In all three regions and across most spatial scales, an increasing proportion of intensively managed grasslands in the surrounding landscape directly negatively influenced herbivore abundance. An increasing proportion of semi-natural habitats had a direct positive influence on herbivore abundance. The abundance of M. labilis was best explained at radii of r = 1500–2000 m, that of M. pascuorum at r = 100–500 m. The parasitoid, M. incultus, was indirectly influenced by land use intensity via the density of its two hosts.


Agricultural intensification of grasslands can profoundly affect the abundance of their herbivorous and entomophagous fauna at landscape scale. This may have important implications for landscape management and the conservation of higher trophic level organisms in agricultural landscapes.


Grassland Landscape composition Land use intensity Host-parasitoid interaction Ribwort plantain Spatial scale Tritrophic system Trophic interaction 



We thank the managers of the three Exploratories, Swen Renner, Sonja Gockel, Andreas Hemp and Martin Gorke and Simone Pfeiffer for their work in maintaining the plot and project infrastructure; Christiane Fischer and Simone Pfeiffer for giving support through the central office, Jens Nieschulze for managing the central data base, and Markus Fischer, Eduard Linsenmair, Dominik Hessenmöller, Daniel Prati, Ingo Schöning, François Buscot, Ernst-Detlef Schulze, Wolfgang W. Weisser and the late Elisabeth Kalko for their role in setting up the Biodiversity Exploratories project. The work has been funded by the DFG Priority Program 1374 “Infrastructure-Biodiversity-Exploratories” [OB 185/2-1, ME 1810/5-1]. Field work permits were issued by the responsible state environmental offices of Baden-Württemberg, Thüringen, and Brandenburg (according to § 72 BbgNatSchG). We want to thank the contributing project InsectScale, Peter Sprick for the help with snout beetle species identification, Stefan Vidal and Lars Krogmann for identification of the hatched parasitoids. Furthermore we thank Andrea Hilpert, Matthias Jäger, Nadine Kunkel, Daniel Roth and Karen Wolf for their fieldwork assistance and help in the lab. Finally, we want to thank two anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments on an earlier version of the manuscript and Karen Voss for English revision.

Supplementary material

10980_2017_562_MOESM1_ESM.docx (893 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 893 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christine Herbst
    • 1
  • Sabrina Arnold-Schwandner
    • 1
  • Torsten Meiners
    • 2
    • 4
  • Marcell K. Peters
    • 1
  • Christoph Rothenwöhrer
    • 3
  • Juliane Steckel
    • 1
  • Nicole Wäschke
    • 2
  • Catrin Westphal
    • 3
  • Elisabeth Obermaier
    • 1
    • 5
  1. 1.Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical BiologyUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Biology, Applied Zoology/Animal EcologyFreie Universität BerlinBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Agroecology, Department of Crop SciencesGeorg-August-University GöttingenGöttingenGermany
  4. 4.Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants, Ecological Chemistry, Plant Analysis and Stored Product ProtectionJulius Kühn-Institut (JKI)BerlinGermany
  5. 5.Ecological Botanical GardenUniversity of BayreuthBayreuthGermany

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