Effect of inter-annual landscape changes on the interactions between cereal aphids and their natural enemies

12 February 2014

The agricultural intensification and the subsequent habitat changes in agroecosystem can strongly affect biological control services. We here examine the influence of inter-annual landscape change in wheat field area on interactions of cereal aphids and their natural enemies, as well as the efficacy of biological control using data collected from a 4-year experiment in Northwest China. Two hypotheses were tested. (i) Population densities decline following an inter-annual expansion of wheat crop proportion cover due to dilution and crowding effects. (ii) Species that are specialists or at higher trophic levels are more sensitive to bottom- up disturbance by inter-annual change in percent cover of wheat crop. Results showed the population densities of one cereal aphid ( Macrosiphum avenae ), one parasitic wasp ( Aphidius avenae ), two specialist predators (ladybirds: Hippodamia variegata and H. tredecimpunctata ) and one hyperparasitic wasp ( Pachyneuron aphidis ) declined following the expansion of wheat crop areas, supporting the predictions of inter-annual dilution and crowding effects. In contrast, the populations of one cereal aphid ( Schizaphis graminum ), one parasitic wasp ( A. gifuensis ), two generalist predators (spiders: Pardosa astrigera ; carabid beetles: Chlaenius pallipes ), and two hyperparasitic wasps ( Asaphes suspensus , and Alloxysta sp.) did not respond to inter-annual landscape change. The two hypotheses were partially supported but with noticeable exceptions, and the bio-control efficiency declined with the increase of the proportion cover of wheat field in agricultural landscape. Overall, different responses of cereal aphids and their natural enemies make it difficult but still possible to optimize inter-annual landscape change for enhancing the parasitism rate and predator-prey ratio.