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Ecology. 2006 Feb;87(2):277-82.

Species identity dominates the relationship between predator biodiversity and herbivore suppression.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, Washington State University, Pullman 99164, USA.


Agricultural pest suppression is an important ecosystem service that may be threatened by the loss of predator diversity. This has stimulated interest in the relationship between predator biodiversity and biological control. Multiple-predator studies have shown that predators may complement or interfere with one another, but few experiments have determined if the resulting effects on prey are caused by changes in predator abundance, identity, species richness, or some combination of these factors. We experimentally isolated the effect of predator species richness on the biological control of an important agricultural pest, the green peach aphid. We found no evidence that increasing predator species richness affects aphid biological control; overall there was no strong complementarity or interference among predator species that altered the strength of aphid suppression. Instead, our experiments revealed strong effects of predator species identity, because predators varied dramatically in their per capita consumption rates. Our results are consistent with other multiple-predator studies finding strong species-identity effects and suggest that, for the biological control of aphids, conservation strategies that directly target key species will be more effective than those targeting predator biodiversity more broadly.

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