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Abundance, movements and biodiversity of flying predatory insects in crop and non-crop agroecosystems

Agronomy For Sustainable Development

Abstract

Predatory insects are key natural enemies that can highly reduce crops pest damage. However, there is a lack of knowledge about the movements of flying predatory insects in agroecosystems throughout the year. In particular, it is still unclear how these predators move from crop to non-crop habitats, which are the preferred habitats to overwinter and to spread during the spring and if these predators leave or stay after chemical treatments. Here, the Neuroptera, a generalist, highly mobile, flying predator order of insects, was selected as model. We studied the effects of farming management and the efficiency of edge shelterbelts, ground cover vegetation, and fruit trees canopy on holding flying predatory insects in Mediterranean traditional agroecosystems. Seasonal movements and winter effects were also assessed. We evaluated monthly nine fruit agroecosystems, six organic, and three pesticides sprayed, of 0.5-1 ha in eastern Spain during 3 years using two complementary methods, yellow sticky traps and aspirator. Results show surprisingly that the insect abundance was highest in pesticide sprayed systems, with 3.40 insects/sample versus 2.32 insects/sample in organic systems. The biodiversity indices were highest in agroecosystems conducted under organic management, with S of 4.68 and D of 2.34. Shelterbelts showed highest biodiversity indices, S of 3.27 and D of 1.93, among insect habitats. Insect species whose adults were active during the winter preferred fruit trees to spend all year round. However, numerous species moved from fruit trees to shelterbelts to overwinter and dispersed into the orchard during the following spring. The ground cover vegetation showed statistically much lower attractiveness for flying predatory insects than other habitats. Shelterbelts should therefore be the first option in terms of investment in ecological infrastructures enhancing flying predators.

Author(s): Sorribas, J; Gonzalez, S; Dominguez-Gento, A; Vercher, R

Journal: Agronomy For Sustainable Development

Year: 2016

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