Landscape Ecology

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 185–197

Response of generalist and specialist insect herbivores to landscape spatial structure

  • Ian D. Jonsen
  • Lenore Fahrig


The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect ofchanges in landscape pattern on generalist and specialistinsects. We did this by comparing the species richness andabundance of generalist and specialist herbivorous insects inalfalfa (Medicago sativa, L.) fields on 26 agriculturallandscapes that differed in spatial structure. The insects werefrom the families Curculionidae (Coleoptera), weevils, andCicadellidae (Auchennorhyncha), leafhoppers.

We hypothesized that: (1) generalist richness and abundancewould be highest in landscapes with high diversity(Shannon-Wiener); (2) specialist richness and abundance would behighest in landscapes with (i) high percent cover alfalfa and(ii) low mean inter-patch distance. We tested for these effectsafter controlling for the patch-level effects of field size,field age, frequency of disturbance and vegetation texture.

The important findings of the study are: (1) generalist richness andabundance increased with increasing landscape diversity and (2)isolation (percent cover alfalfa in the landscape and/or meaninter-patch distance) does not affect specialist insects. Theseresults are significant because they indicate that bothgeneralist and specialist insects may move over much largerdistances than previously thought. This is one of the firststudies to demonstrate a large scale effect of spatial structureon insects across a broad range of landscapes.

alfalfa diversity farmland habitat patch arthropods isolation landscape pattern leafhoppers scale weevils 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian D. Jonsen
    • 1
  • Lenore Fahrig
    • 1
  1. 1.Ottawa-Carleton Institute of BiologyCarleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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