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J Anim Ecol. 2010 Mar;79(2):491-500. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2656.2009.01642.x. Epub 2009 Dec 8.

How do landscape composition and configuration, organic farming and fallow strips affect the diversity of bees, wasps and their parasitoids?

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Agroecology, Georg-August University, Waldweg 26, D-37073 Göttingen, Germany.


1. Habitat destruction and increasing land use intensity result in habitat loss, fragmentation and degradation, and subsequently in the loss of species diversity. The fact that these factors are often highly confounded makes disentangling their effects extremely difficult, if not impossible, and their relative impact on species loss is mostly speculative. 2. In a two-year study, we analysed the relative importance of changed landscape composition (increased areas of cropped habitats), reduced habitat connectivity and reduced habitat quality on nest colonization of cavity-nesting bees, wasps and their parasitoids. We selected 23 pairs of conventional and organic wheat fields in the centre of landscape circles (500 m radius) differing in edge densities (landscape configuration) and % non-crop habitats (landscape composition). Standardized trap nests were established in the field centres and in neighbouring permanent fallow strips (making a total of 92 nesting sites). 3. Factors at all three scales affected nest colonization. While bees were enhanced by high proportions of non-crop habitat in the landscape, wasps profited from high edge densities, supporting our hypothesis that wasps are enhanced by connecting corridors. Colonization of herbivore-predating wasps was lower in field centres than in fallow strips for conventional sites, but not for organic sites, indicating a fallow-like connectivity value of organic fields. The relative importance of habitat type and farming system varied among functional groups suggesting that their perception of crop-non-crop boundaries or the availability of their food resources differed. 4. Local and landscape effects on parasitoids were mainly mediated by their hosts. Parasitism rates were marginally affected by local factors. A specialist parasitoid was more sensitive to high land use intensity than its host, whereas generalist parasitoids were less sensitive. 5. We conclude that the conversion of cropland into non-crop habitat may not be a sufficiently successful strategy to enhance wasps or other species that suffer more from isolation than from habitat loss. Interestingly, habitat connectivity appeared to be enhanced by both higher edge densities and by organic field management. Thus, we conclude that high proportions of conventionally managed and large crop fields threaten pollination and biological control services at a landscape scale.

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