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Ecol Appl. 2006 Feb;16(1):262-72.

Do top-down or bottom-up forces determine Stephanitis pyrioides abundance in urban landscapes?

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  • 1Department of Entomology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland 20742-4454, USA.


This study examined the influence of habitat structural complexity on the collective effects of top-down and bottom-up forces on herbivore abundance in urban landscapes. The persistence and varying complexity of urban landscapes set them apart from ephemeral agroecosystems and natural habitats where the majority of studies have been conducted. Using surveys and manipulative experiments. We explicitly tested the effect of natural enemies (enemies hypothesis), host plant quality, and herbivore movement on the abundance of the specialist insect herbivore, Stephanitis pyrioides, in landscapes of varying structural complexity. This herbivore was extremely abundant in simple landscapes and rare in complex ones. Natural enemies were the major force influencing abundance of S. pyrioides across habitat types. Generalist predators, particularly the spider Anyphaena celer, were more abundant in complex landscapes. Predator abundance was related to greater abundance of alternative prey in those landscapes. Stephanitis pyrioides survival was lower in complex habitats when exposed to endemic natural enemy populations. Laboratory feeding trials confirmed the more abundant predators consumed S. pyrioides. Host plant quality was not a strong force influencing patterns of S. pyrioides abundance. When predators were excluded, adult S. pyrioides survival was greater on azaleas grown in complex habitats, in opposition to the observed pattern of abundance. Similarly, complexity did not affect S. pyrioides immigration and emigration rates. The complexity of urban landscapes affects the strength of top-down forces on herbivorous insect populations by influencing alternative prey and generalist predator abundance. It is possible that habitats can be manipulated to promote the suppressive effects of generalist predators.

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