Research ArticleAGRICULTURE

Trading biodiversity for pest problems

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Science Advances  31 Jul 2015:
Vol. 1, no. 6, e1500558
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1500558

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Recent shifts in agricultural practices have resulted in altered pesticide use patterns, land use intensification, and landscape simplification, all of which threaten biodiversity in and near farms. Pests are major challenges to food security, and responses to pests can represent unintended socioeconomic and environmental costs. Characteristics of the ecological community influence pest populations, but the nature of these interactions remains poorly understood within realistic community complexities and on operating farms. We examine how species diversity and the topology of linkages in species’ abundances affect pest abundance on maize farms across the Northern Great Plains. Our results show that increased species diversity, community evenness, and linkage strength and network centrality within a biological network all correlate with significantly reduced pest populations. This supports the assertion that reduced biological complexity on farms is associated with increased pest populations and provides a further justification for diversification of agroecosystems to improve the profitability, safety, and sustainability of food production systems. Bioinventories as comprehensive as the one conducted here are conspicuously absent for most agroecosystems but provide an important baseline for community and ecosystem ecology and the effects of food production on local biodiversity and ecosystem function. Network analyses of abundance correlations of entire communities (rather than focal interactions, for example, trophic interactions) can reveal key network characteristics, especially the importance and nature of network centrality, which aid in understanding how these communities function.

  • Crop science
  • Ecology
  • entomology

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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