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Do farming practices affect natural enemies at the landscape scale?

Landscape Ecology

Abstract

Farming practices are rarely considered in the description of agricultural landscapes. However, the variety of cropping systems creates a particular kind of heterogeneity which can strongly affect the diversity of species living in agro-ecosystems, and consequently the ecosystem services they provide. In this study, we investigate the effects of landscape composition and configuration of organic and conventional farming practices on three groups of aphids' natural enemies, compared to field habitat quality and land cover heterogeneity. A field survey was carried out in 2012 and 2013 in western France (Brittany). Ladybirds, carabid beetles and parasitoids were sampled in 40 pairs of organic and conventional winter wheat fields, distributed along a landscape gradient of organic farming areas. The relationships between farming practices and natural enemies were investigated with a PLS-path modeling approach, hardly ever used in ecology but presenting numerous advantages to analyze multivariate systems. Results showed that abundance and species richness of natural enemies were mainly affected by local farming practices, with a higher diversity in organic fields. To a lesser extent, landscapes also affected natural enemies, but only in relation to the length and configuration of hedgerows. Our results open up avenues for the design of agricultural landscapes since our results suggest that natural enemy diversity can be enhanced without a specific organization of organic fields. We discuss methodological issues regarding the description and the analysis of farming practices at the landscape scale. We argue that such investigations require high quality maps covering large spatial extents, and the use of statistical tools providing a good handling of complex relationships occurring in agro-ecosystems.

Author(s): Puech, C; Poggi, S; Baudry, J; Aviron, S

Journal: Landscape Ecology

Year: 2015

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