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Top-down regulation of hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) in its native range in the Pacific Northwest of North America

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Abstract

The density of insect herbivores is regulated by top-down factors (e.g., natural enemies), bottom-up effects (e.g., plant defenses against herbivory), or a combination of both. As such, understanding the relative importance of these factors can have important implications for the establishment of effective management options for invasive species. Here, we compared the relative importance of top-down and bottom-up factors on the abundance of hemlock woolly adelgid (HWA), Adelges tsugae. HWA is invasive in eastern North America, but its native range includes the Pacific Northwest of North America where it has co-evolved with western hemlock, Tsuga heterophylla. Eastern hemlock, Tsuga canadensis, can also be found planted in city and park settings in the Pacific Northwest and the presence of both host species allowed us to directly compare the importance of predators (top-down) and host plant resistance (bottom-up) on HWA abundance by placing mesh exclusion bags on branches of both species and monitoring HWA abundance over two years. We found no evidence for bottom-up control of HWA on western hemlock (a native host). HWA established more readily on that species than on eastern hemlock on which it is a major pest in eastern North America. We found strong evidence for top-down control in that both summer and winter-active predators significantly reduced HWA densities on the branches of both tree species where predators were allowed access. These findings support the validity of the biological control program for HWA, the goal of which is to reduce outbreak populations of HWA in eastern North America.

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Data availability

The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Code availability

The R-script used to analyze the dataset used and/or analyzed during the current study is available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

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Acknowledgements

We thank members of the Elkinton Lab for helping with gathering materials (G. Boettner), data collection (A. Langevin, A. Roehrig, J. Chandler, B. Griffin), editing (J. Chandler, J. Andersen, H. Broadley). We thank M. Whitmore, E. Sussky, and E. Hazelton for locating sources of HWA inoculum and/or help with experimental set up. Thanks to N. Havill for identifying insect samples with molecular techniques. We thank R. McDonald for introducing us to the Arboretum. We thank the University of Washington’s Washington Park Arboretum (D. Zuckerman, R. Garrison, and staff) for allowing us to set up our experiment in the arboretum and use their equipment and facilities. We thank D. Orwig and E. Preisser for helpful edits to the manuscript. Finally, we thank the USDA Forest Service (R. Reardon, N. Schneeberger) for funding this project.

Funding

This study was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service Grant No. 14-CA-11420004–181.

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JE obtained funding and provided overall management of the project. JE and JL formulated the study design. JL and RC collected the data. RC conducted statistical analyses and wrote the manuscript. JE and JL edited drafts of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Ryan S. Crandall.

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Communicated by David Donoso.

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Crandall, R.S., Lombardo, J.A. & Elkinton, J.S. Top-down regulation of hemlock woolly adelgid (Adelges tsugae) in its native range in the Pacific Northwest of North America. Oecologia 199, 599–609 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00442-022-05214-8

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