Aphid parasitoids respond to vegetation heterogeneity but not to fragmentation scale: An experimental field study

John E. Banks, Vesna Gagic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How animal populations respond to habitat manipulations is a central theme in ecology. In recent years, the role that vegetation heterogeneity plays in regulating arthropod populations has received particular attention in both conservation science and agricultural ecology. Numerous observational studies have demonstrated that herbivores and their natural enemies are sensitive to vegetation heterogeneity, but the individual effects of percentage land cover, degree of fragmentation and patch size remain little understood. We present here the results of a manipulative field experiment that explicitly incorporates both habitat heterogeneity and the degree to which that heterogeneity is fragmented in order to determine the effects of each factor on parasitism in an agroecosystem. We deployed combinations of broccoli (crop) and weedy vegetation (non-crop) in linear arrays that varied in their percentage devoted to crop and in the degree at which crop patches were fragmented with weeds, and recorded parasitism rates on two aphid species multiple times during two years. Parasitoids responded to the percentage of crop in plots, but not to the spatial scale at which they were fragmented. Our results suggest that vegetation heterogeneity may be more important than fragmentation scale in biological control by parasitoids.
Original languageAmerican English
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
StatePublished - 2016


  • Percent crop cover; Diaeretiella rapae; Brassica oleraceae; Brevicoryne brassicae; Myzus persicae; Foraging
  • Weedy vegetation


  • Life Sciences
  • Agriculture
  • Entomology

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