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Oecologia. 2003 Jan;134(1):144-53. Epub 2002 Oct 24.

Intraguild interference and biocontrol effects of generalist predators in a winter wheat field.

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  • 1GSF-National Research Centre for Environment and Health, Neuherberg, Institute of Soil Ecology, PO Box 1129, 85758 Oberschleissheim, Germany.


Arable land typically harbours communities of polyphagous invertebrate natural enemies, among them numerous soil-surface dwelling predators such as ground beetles (Carabidae) and spiders (Lycosidae, Linyphiidae). Numbers of these predators were experimentally manipulated in a winter wheat field in order to study the predation impact of a generalist predator assemblage on herbivorous insects, the possible interferences among the predators concerned, and subsequent effects on wheat plant parameters. Removing ground beetles doubled numbers of Lycosidae indicative of intraguild interference between these two predator groups. Aphid densities were highest in carabid removal plots implying a substantial predation impact of ground beetles on the pest population. The predation impact of ground beetles was strongest earlier and disappeared later in the season. In mid-season, at intermediate aphid densities, the combined impact of carabid beetles and spiders appeared to be responsible for the reduction in aphid abundance. This result was probably due to a biomass effect rather than to a synergistic effect of the predator community. Thysanoptera decreased when spiders were removed (perhaps because spiders were preying on a predator of thrips), while Cicadellidae and Delphacidae showed no effect at all. The rise of aphid numbers in carabid removal plots corresponded to an increase in protein content of the wheat grains, while other plant parameters such as plant numbers and grain mass were not affected. In conclusion, this study provided field evidence for intraguild interference among generalist ground predators in arable land. Despite this interference the polyphagous predator community was able to depress numbers of aphids in winter wheat, a result cascading down to plant quality parameters.

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