Herbivores, saprovores and natural enemies respond differently to within-field plant characteristics of wheat fields
Understanding ecosystem functioning in a farmland context by considering the variety of ecological strategies employed by arthropods is a core challenge in ecology and conservation science. We adopted a functional approach in an assessment of the relationship between three functional plant groups (grasses, broad-leaves and legumes) and the arthropod community in winter wheat fields in a Mediterranean dryland context. We sampled the arthropod community as thoroughly as possible with a combination of suction catching and flight-interception trapping. All specimens were identified to the appropriate taxonomic level (family, genus or species) and classified according to their form of feeding: chewing-herbivores, sucking-herbivores, flower-consumers, omnivores, saprovores, parasitoids or predators. We found, a richer plant community favoured a greater diversity of herbivores and, in turn, a richness of herbivores and saprovores enhanced the communities of their natural enemies, which supports the classical trophic structure hypothesis. Grass cover had a positive effect on sucking-herbivores, saprovores and their natural enemies and is probably due to grasses’ ability to provide, either directly or indirectly, alternative resources or simply by offering better environmental conditions. By including legumes in agroecosystems we can improve the conservation of beneficial arthropods like predators or parasitoids, and enhance the provision of ecosystem services such as natural pest control.
KeywordsFunctional approach Plant–arthropod interaction Biological control Legumes Ecosystem services Insect functional traits
|Funder Name||Grant Number||Funding Note|
|Becas Predoctorales para Personal Investigador|
|Ministerio de Ciencia y Tecnología|
|Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación|