Land Use Intensification in Grasslands: Higher Trophic Levels are More Negatively Affected than Lower Trophic Levels
Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata
Increasing land use intensity and human influence are leading to a reduction in plant and animal species diversity. However, little is known about how these changes may affect higher trophic levels, apart from simply reducing species numbers. Here we investigated, over 3 years, the influence of different land practices on a tritrophic system in grassland habitats. The system consisted of the host plant Plantago lanceolata L. ( Plantaginaceae), two monophagous weevils, Mecinus labilis Herbst and Mecinus pascuorum Gyllenhal ( Coleoptera: Curculionidae), and their parasitoid Mesopolobus incultus Walker ( Hymenoptera: Pteromalidae). At over 70 sites across three geographic regions in Germany, we measured plant species diversity and vegetation structure, as well as abundance of P. lanceolata, the two weevils, and the parasitoid. Land use intensity (fertilization) and type (mowing vs. grazing) negatively affected not only plant species richness but also the occurrence of the two specialized herbivores and their parasitoid. In contrast, land use had a mostly positive effect on host plant size, vegetation structure, and parasitization rate. This study reveals that intensification of land use influences higher trophic organisms even without affecting the availability of the host plant. The observed relationships between land use, vegetation complexity, and the tritrophic system are not restricted locally; rather they are measureable along a broad range of environmental conditions and years throughout Germany. Our findings may have important implications for the conservation of insect species of nutrient-poor grasslands.
Herbst, C., Wäschke, N., Halboth, I., Reschke, S., Barto (Morris), E. K., Meiners, T., & Obermaier, E. (2013). Land use intensification in grasslands: Higher trophic levels are more negatively affected than lower trophic levels. Entomologia Experimentalis et Applicata, 147, 269-281.
Morris, Kathyrn; Herbst, C.; and Wäschke, N., "Land Use Intensification in Grasslands: Higher Trophic Levels are More Negatively Affected than Lower Trophic Levels" (2013). Faculty Scholarship. 40.