Distribution and colonisation ability of three parasitoids and their herbivorous host in a fragmented landscape

J.A. Elzinga, S. van Nouhuys, D.J. Van Leeuwen, A. Biere

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    Habitat fragmentation can disrupt communities of interacting species even if only some of the species are directly affected by fragmentation. For instance, if parasitoids disperse less well than their herbivorous hosts, habitat fragmentation may lead to higher herbivory in isolated plant patches due to the absence of the third trophic level. Community-level studies suggest that parasitoids tend to have limited dispersal abilities, on the order of tens of metres, much smaller than that of their hosts, while species-oriented studies document dispersal by parasitoids on the scale of kilometres. In this study the distribution patterns of three parasitoid species with different life histories and their moth host, Hadena bicruris, a specialist herbivore of Silene latifolia, were compared in a large-scale network of natural fragmented plant patches along the rivers Rhine and Waal in the Netherlands. We examined how patch size and isolation affect the presence of each species. Additionally, experimental plots were used to study the colonisation abilities of the species at different distances from source populations. In the natural plant patches the presence of the herbivore and two of the parasitoids, the gregarious specialist Microplitis tristis and the gregarious generalist Bracon variator were not affected by patch isolation at the scale of the study, while the solitary specialist Eurylabus tristis was. In contrast to the herbivore, the presence of all parasitoid species declined with plant patch size. The colonisation experiment confirmed that the herbivore and M. tristis are good dispersers, able to tr [KEYWORDS: Dispersal ; Connectivity ; Habitat fragmentation ; Tri-trophic interactions ; Silene latifolia ; Hadena bicruris]
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)75-88
    JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
    Issue number1
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


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