Pest control potential of adjacent agri-environment schemes varies with crop type and is shaped by landscape context and within-field position.

Published online
06 Dec 2020
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Boetzl, F. A. & Schuele, M. & Krauss, J. & Steffan-Dewenter, I.
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Increasing natural pest control in agricultural fields is an important aim of ecological intensification. Combined effects of landscape context and local placement of agri-environmental schemes (AES) on natural pest control and within-field distance functions of natural pest control agents have rarely been addressed but might affect the distribution of biocontrol providers. Importantly, it is currently unknown whether ecosystem services provided by adjacent AES are consistent for different crop types during crop rotation. In this study, we assessed whether crop rotation from oilseed rape to cereals altered within-field distance functions of ground-dwelling predators from adjacent agri-environmental fields along a gradient in landscape context. Additionally, we recorded crop pests, predation rates, parasitoids as well as crop yields on a total of 30 study sites. Distance functions varied between trophic levels: Carabid richness decreased while densities of carabid beetles, staphylinid beetles as well as crop yields increased towards the field centres. Distance functions of parasitoids and pests were modulated by the amount of semi-natural habitat in the surrounding landscape, while the effects of adjacent AES were limited. Distance decay functions found for ground-dwelling predators in oilseed rape in the previous year were not always present in cereals. Increasing distance to the field edge also increased effects of crop rotation on carabid beetle assemblages, indicating a source habitat function of field edges. Synthesis and applications. Distance functions of natural pest control are not universal and the effects of agri-environmental schemes (AES) in different adjacent crops during crop rotation vary and depend on ecological contrasts. A network of semi-natural habitats and spatially optimized AES habitats can benefit pest control in agricultural landscapes, but constraints as a result of crop type need to be addressed by annually targeted, spatially shifting agri-environment schemes for different crops.

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