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Cultivating plant mixtures is expected to provide a higher productivity and a better control of pests and diseases. The structure of the arthropod community is a major driver of the magnitude of natural pest regulations.
With the aim of optimizing pest management, a study was carried out to determine the effect of the cropping system type (tomato mono-cropping vs. mixed-cropping) on the diversity and abundance of arthropods from three trophic groups (herbivores, omnivores, predators) and the abundance of Helicoverpa armigera. Therefore, the diversity of cultivated plants and arthropod communities was assessed within tomato fields from 30 farmer's fields randomly selected in South of Benin. Results showed that the arthropod abundance was significantly higher in mixed-cropping systems compared with mono-cropping systems, although the crop type did not alter significantly the arthropod diversity, evenness, and richness. At the level of taxa, the abundances of generalist predators including ants (Pheidole spp., and Paltothyreus tarsatus) and spiders (Araneus spp. and Erigone sp.) were significantly higher in mixed fields than in mono-crop fields. Then, the abundances of omnivore-predator trophic groups have a negative significant effect on the H. armigera abundance. This study allowed better understanding of how plant diversity associated to tomato fields structures arthropod's food webs to finally enhance the ecological management of H. armigera.
As apex predators, sharks are known to play an important role in marine food webs. Detailed information on their diet and trophic level is however needed to make clear inferences about their role in the ecosystem. A total of 335 stomachs of smooth hammerhead sharks, Sphyrna zygaena, were obtained from commercial fishing vessels operating in the Ecuadorian Pacific between January and December 2004. A total of 53 prey items were found in the stomachs. According to the Index of Relative Importance (%IRI), cephalopods were the main prey (Dosidicus gigas, Sthenoteuthis oualaniensis, Ancistrocheirus lesueurii and Lolliguncula [Loliolopsis] diomedeae). Sphyrna zygaena was thus confirmed to be a teutophagous species. The estimated trophic level of S. zygaena was between 4.6 and 5.1 (mean ± SD: 4.7 ± 0.16; males: 4.7; females: 4.8). Levin's index (BA) was low (overall: 0.07; males: 0.08; females: 0.09), indicating a narrow trophic niche. We found that sharks <150 cm in total length consumed prey of coastal origin, whereas sharks ≥150 cm foraged in oceanic waters and near the continental shelf. The analyses indicate that S. zygaena is a specialized predator consuming mainly squids.
Removal of parasite free-living stages by predators has previously been suggested an important factor controlling parasite transmission in aquatic habitats. Experimental studies of zooplankton predation on macroparasite larvae are, however, scarce. We tested whether trematode cercariae, which are often numerous in shallow waters, are suitable prey for syntopic zooplankters. Feeding rates and survival of freshwater cyclopoids (Megacyclops viridis, Macrocyclops distinctus), calanoids (Arctodiaptomus paulseni), cladocerans (Sida crystallina) and rotifers Asplanchna spp., fed with cercariae of Diplostomum pseudospathaceum, a common fish trematode, were studied. In additional long-term experiments, we studied reproduction of cyclopoids fed with cercariae. All tested zooplankton species consumed cercariae. The highest feeding rates were observed for cyclopoids (33 ± 12 cercariae ind−1 h−1), which actively reproduced (up to one egg clutch day−1) when fed ad libitum with cercariae. Their reproductive characteristics did not change significantly with time, indicating that cercariae supported cyclopoids’ dietary needs. Mortality of rotifers and cladocerans was high (25–28% individuals) when exposed to cercariae in contrast to cyclopoids and calanoids (<2%). Cercariae clogged the filtration apparatus of cladocerans and caused internal injuries in predatory rotifers, which ingested cercariae. Observed trophic links between common freshwater zooplankters and cercariae may significantly influence food webs and parasite transmission in lentic ecosystems.
The shallow sandy marine subtidal ecosystem off Mar del Plata, Argentina, is the scene of multiple fisheries activities, in particular the prawn–shrimp Artemesia longinaris and Pleoticus muelleri grounds. We examined the δ13C vs δ15N isotope signatures of 22 species commonly found in the area in order to understand how this ecosystem supports the fishery, with special emphasis on imposex-affected gastropod populations. Our results indicate that the main food source for Olivancillaria urceus and Buccinanops monilifer were bivalves and crustaceans. Buccinanops duartei and Olivancillaria carcellesi feed on bivalves and also on macroalgae. These findings indicate, for the first time, a slight selectivity of some of the gastropods studied for local drifted algal sources and how gastropods may scavenge available food from by-catch returned to the sea. The fishes Urophysis brasiliensis and Callorhynchus callorhynchus appeared to be the top predators of this area with B. duartei and O. carcellesi constituting important components of their diet.
Pleuroncodes monodon, an important fishery resource and key species in the Humboldt Current Large Marine ecosystem, has a prolonged reproductive period from winter until end of summer, and during this time females incubating their embryos are exposed to seasonal variation in food availability and in temperature. Additionally, in order to ensure successful reproduction and survival of embryos, changes occur in the main internal reserves and/or sources of energy of P. monodon. The aim of this study was to determine the extent of seasonal variation (winter vs summer) in the lipid content and fatty acid composition of ovigerous females and their embryos. The results show that a higher percentage of saturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids are found in females in winter. Similarly, the composition of fatty acids in embryos found here indicates that winter embryos have more saturated fatty acids and essential fatty acids (C18:2n6cis, C18:3n6 and C22:6n3) than do summer embryos. According to PCA analysis of fatty acid profile, samples from summer may be distinguished into two isolated groups with conspicuous variations in fatty acids profile of embryo and hepatopancreas. While in winter, the opposite pattern occurs in the fatty acid profile of embryo and hepatopancreas. These variations may be related to relevant physiological processes (reproduction and growth) and of their ontogeny (development and survival of offspring). Seasonal variation in the lipid content and composition of fatty acids of P. monodon could directly impact this species’ reproduction and survival and subsequently could have consequences on the food web and fishery exploitation.
Since 1980, mosquito breeding habitats in the Upper Rhine Valley were routinely treated with Bacillus thuringiensis var. israelensis (Bti). Bti is considered to significantly reduce the number of mosquitoes, and – especially when used in higher dosages – to be toxic to other Nematocera species, e.g. Chironomidae, which could be food sources for aerial feeding predators. To investigate direct and indirect effects of routine Bti treatment on food sources for aerial feeding predators, the availability of flying insects in treated and untreated areas was compared. A car trap was used for insect collection, which allowed their exact spatiotemporal assignment. The statistical analysis revealed that insect taxa abundance was influenced differently by the factors season, temperature and time of day. Nematocera (Diptera) were the most frequently collected insects in all areas. Chironomidae were the predominant aquatic Nematocera. The comparison of treated and untreated sites did not show significant differences that would indicate any direct or indirect effect of routine Bti treatment on the availability of flying insects. Additional to food availability, food selection must be considered when investigating food resources for aerial feeding predators. In this study, food selection of Delichon urbicum (House Martin) as an example was investigated with the help of neck ring samples. The preferred prey of the investigated D. urbicum colony consisted of diurnal insects with terrestrial larvae (Aphidina, Brachycera, Coleoptera). Chironomidae were consumed, but not preferred.
During their ontogeny many organisms exhibit size and/or stage-specific variability in a variety of features related to morphology and ecology, leading to a shift in the ecological niche between size- or stage groups. We analysed such ecological shifts between four larval stage groups in each of two syntopic species of frogs (a total of 5870 individuals) in two West African savanna ponds in Côte d'Ivoire. We hypothesized and confirmed differences between stage groups in ecological variables related to microhabitat and feeding niche. Stage groups differed up to 1‰ in δ15N and 1.5‰ in δ13C isotopic signatures, up to 10 cm in selected water depth, up to 6 m in distance to the pond's edge, and in the coverage of submerged vegetation (range = 10–50%). However, the hypothesis that tadpoles with generalized mouthparts (Kassina spp.) exhibit more pronounced ontogenetic shifts in food-web position than a specialized filter-feeding species (Phrynomantis microps), and that differences between larval stages are more pronounced in a heterogeneous habitat (offering more choices of habitat and food niches) than in a homogeneous habitat (offering less choices) was only partly confirmed. This study underlines that potential niche shift during different ontogenetic stages is an important factor to be considered in ecological studies.
We documented one of the most species-rich assemblages of tropical rain-forest Auchenorrhyncha, comprising 402 phloem- and xylem-feeding species, by sampling adults from forest vegetation. Further, we reared 106 species from larvae sampled on 14 plant species. Both xylem- and phloem-feeding guilds exhibited wide host-plant ranges, as 74% of species fed on more than one plant family. In comparison, using data extracted from the temperate-zone literature, phloem-feeders exhibited lower host specificity in Papua New Guinea than in Germany, because in Papua New Guinea they were dominated by generalist Fulgoroidea while in Germany by specialist Membracoidea. The similarity of Auchenorrhyncha assemblages from different plant species was unrelated to the phylogenetic distance between their hosts. Host specificity, abundance and species composition of Auchenorrhyncha assemblages were unrelated to the optimum of their host plant species on succession gradient from secondary to primary forest. Higher host specificity did not lead to greater species richness in Auchenorrhyncha assemblages feeding on different plant species, but the number of species feeding on a particular plant species was a strong predictor of the Auchenorrhyncha abundance on that plant. These patterns suggest that Auchenorrhyncha assemblages on these plant species are not saturated with species and determined by division of limited resources among competitors, but instead are dependent on the number of colonizers from the regional species pool.
Human demands for food and fish meal are often in direct competition with forage needs of marine mammals, birds and piscivorous harvested fish. Here, two well-developed ecosystem models for the California Current on the West Coast of the USA were used to test the impacts on other parts of the ecosystem of harvesting euphausiids, forage fish, mackerel and mesopelagic fish such as myctophids. Depleting individual forage groups to levels that led to maximum sustainable yield of those groups may have both positive and negative effects on other species in the California Current. The most common impacts were on predators of forage groups, some of which showed declines of >20% under the scenarios that involved depletion of forage groups to 40% of unfished levels. Depletion of euphausiids and forage fish, which each comprise >10% of system biomass, had the largest impact on other species. Depleting euphausiids to 40% of unfished levels altered the abundance of 13–30% of the other functional groups by >20%; while depleting forage fish to 40% altered the abundance of 20–50% of the other functional groups by >20%. There are clear trade-offs between the harvest of forage groups and the ability of the California Current to sustain other trophic levels. Though higher trophic level species, such as groundfish, are often managed on the basis of reference points that can reduce biomass to below half of unfished levels, this level of forage species removal is likely to impact the abundance of other target species, protected species and the structure of the ecosystem.
The trophic structure of organisms is an important aspect of the ecosystem as it describes how energy is transferred between different trophic levels. Here, we studied the diet and foraging ecology of 144 individuals belonging to five abundant fish species of subtidal habitats at Isla Robinson Crusoe. Sampling was conducted during the austral spring and summer of 2007 and 2008, respectively. The shallow subtidal habitat is mainly characterized by the abundance of two types of habitat: foliose algae and encrusting invertebrates. Diet and trophic characteristic of fishes were obtained by volumetric contribution and frequency of occurrence of each prey item. Of the five species studied, one is herbivorous (juvenile Scorpis chilensis), four are omnivores (Nemadactylus gayi, Malapterus reticulatus, Pseudocaranx chilensis and Scorpis chilensis adult), and one carnivore (Hypoplectrodes semicinctum). The dietary diversity index was relatively low compared to other temperate reef systems, which could indicate a low availability of prey items for coastal fishes. The morphological parameters indicated that cranial structures and pairs of pectoral fins influence the foraging behaviour. Differences in fin aspect ratio among species provided insight about fish depth distribution and feeding behaviour. These results suggest important adaptive changes in the depth gradient of fishes in the subtidal environments of this island. According to our records, this is the first attempt to characterize the trophic ecology of the subtidal fish assemblages at Juan Fernandez Archipelago, revealing the need for testing hypotheses related to selective traits that may enhance species coexistence in oceanic islands.
A recently proposed model for the investigation of diffusivity in planktonic systems
containing toxin-producing phytoplanktons is here reconsidered. We show the existence of
planktonic travelling waves. Numerical simulations validate the analytical findings, to
elucidate the sensitivity of the results in dependence of the diffusion coefficients.
One interesting example of a discrete mathematical model used in biology is a food web.
The first biology courses in high school and in college present the fundamental nature of
a food web, one that is understandable by students at all levels. But food webs as part of
a larger system are often not addressed. This paper presents materials that can be used in
undergraduate classes in biology (and mathematics) and provides students with the
opportunity to explore mathematical models of predator-prey relationships, determine
trophic levels, dominant species, stability of the ecosystem, competition graphs, interval
graphs, and even confront problems that would appear to have logical answers that are as
The common reed invasion in North America has spanned two centuries and is still ongoing. This expansion comprises two main forms: an introduced Eurasian lineage (identified here as “Introduced Phragmites”) and a Gulf Coast lineage of unknown origin (identified here as “Gulf Coast Phragmites”). Both lineages are spreading beyond their current ranges and are colonizing Southwestern and Gulf Coast ecosystems where they have not previously existed. As a result, the native North American lineage of common reed (hereafter “native Phragmites”) has declined in many places. The recent invasion of the U.S. Southwest by Introduced and Gulf Coast Phragmites lineages has made this the only region in the world colonized by all three lineages. Along the central Gulf Coast where Gulf Coast Phragmites remains the dominant form, Introduced Phragmites has also recently invaded the Mississippi River delta. The consequences of these new invasions are uncertain, but a rapid response is needed to protect native species and ecosystems and reduce future control costs.
The eastern English Channel, the narrow channel of water separating northern
France and southeast England is an area of intense human use of the array of
resources concentrated into its relative small area. The vulnerability of
living resources and their habitats brought together French and British
maritime experts within a common project (called CHARM): to create an atlas
of marine resource habitats in the eastern English Channel so as to provide
planners and decision-makers with the necessary information to help managing
the use of its living and non-living resources. This multidisciplinary and
richly illustrated atlas provides abundant information on the legal
framework and physical environment; benthic invertebrates, fish and their
habitats; fishing activities; and a first attempt at developing a trophic
network model (using ECOPATH software) and a marine conservation planning
exercise (using MARXAN software, at a spatial resolution of 25 km
Although most of the data used were collected elsewhere, some were collected
especially for the project. Similarly, most of the analyses performed on the
data where entirely original for this geographical area. The CHARM atlas has
significantly improved the knowledge about the eastern Channel while
contributing to the recognition that such holistic or multidisciplinary
approaches to exploited marine systems are necessary to efficiently and
durably manage their resources use.
The role of predation in the regulation of freshwater communities is predicted to decrease along a habitat-duration gradient, from permanent to episodic waters. We tested the role of invertebrate predation in shaping the community structure in a fishless temperate intermittent pond with a three month long hydroperiod by comparing the community structure in two large field enclosures (4.2 m2) with added predators to two enclosures without added predators. The added predators reflected the density and composition of top predators in the pond and comprised weekly additions of dytiscid larvae (for three weeks) followed by weekly additions of odonate nymphs (for five weeks). Compared with the enclosure controls, the predator addition enclosures had fewer dipterans and crustaceans, higher concentrations of benthic ciliates and other protozoans, higher chlorophyll a and bacterial counts, and lower abundance of rotifers. Many treatment effects were temporally variable and this appeared to be linked to predator identity, predator size, and prey availability. Compared with the surrounding pondwater, the enclosed areas had lower abundance of molluscs, ostracods and cladocerans but higher abundance of cyclopoids and higher concentrations of phytoplankton and ciliates. Despite high productivity and seasonally variable predator and prey assemblages, which likely buffered against strong top-down control, we conclude that the top-predators regulate the dipterans and zooplankton in this intermittent pond and that the effects propagated down through the food web to lower trophic levels.
We used stable isotope analysis (15N/14N) to characterize the trophic relationships of consumer communities of an aquatic food web (a permanent pond) and the adjacent terrestrial food web (secondary dry dipterocarp forest) from a seasonal tropical field site in north-eastern Thailand. In general, isotopic signatures of aquatic vertebrates were higher (δ15N range = 4.51–9.90‰) than those of invertebrates (δ15N range = 1.10–6.00‰). High 15N signatures identified water snakes and swamp eels as top predators in the pond food web. In the terrestrial food web 15N signatures of saprophagous litter invertebrates (diplopods, earthworms), termites, ants and beetle larvae were lower than in those of predatory invertebrates (scolopendrids, scorpions, whip spiders). Predatory terrestrial frogs and caecilians had lower 15N signatures than snakes, indicating that snakes are among the top predators in the terrestrial web. Based on the distribution of isotopic signatures, we estimated five trophic levels for both the aquatic and terrestrial food web. The food chains of a seasonal tropical site studied were rather short, which implies similarities to the structure of temperate food webs.
Martinique is a French overseas department whose economy relies heavily on
agriculture. Organochlorine pesticides, mainly chlordecone, were used for
banana cultivation to eradicate banana weevil over a period of 40 years.
Chlordecone is chemically stable,and has a strong affinity for fatty
tissues. It is therefore able to bioaccumulate in animals and thereby
represent a threat to ecosystems and man. Soils from banana plantations in
Martinique are heavily contaminated with chlordecone. Possible transfer of
these molecules from agricultural watersheds to the aquatic environment and
the organisms that live in it is feared. The hypothesis that ecosystems of
Martinique might be highly contaminated with this organochlorine pesticide
was investigated. Chlordecone levels were measured in various freshwater and
marine species. Data show a heavy contamination of many carnivorous and
detritivorous species (fish and prawns). Concentrations measured in wild or
farmed tilapia are among the highest ever reported in the literature. Some
coastal species (fish and lobster) were also found to be contaminated,
although to a lesser extent. Given the biogeochemical behavior of
chlordecone, the most likely route of contamination is food. Detected
concentrations in marine organisms are below the tolerated limits
established by authorities, however, the impact of other sources of
exposure, namely, contaminated water and root vegetables, remains to be
Interactions between weeds and organisms in other pest categories are inevitable. Weeds are plants and therefore ecologically are producers. All other pest organisms are consumers; they are herbivores or pathogens and can thus use weeds directly as a food source. Beneficial organisms are primary carnivores that feed on herbivores; weeds can support beneficials indirectly when they feed on herbivores living on weeds. Weeds can also serve to mask crop plants from herbivore pests; the mechanisms by which this occurs are still debated. Presence of a weed canopy modifies ecosystem microclimate and provides shelter for pests and beneficials that would otherwise not survive. Tactics used to control pests can have impacts on nontarget organisms in other pest categories. Changes in tillage for weed control can impact population development of other pests. Pesticides can affect nontarget organisms resulting in unanticipated changes in crop tolerance and pest control. Development of true integrated pest management programs requires a multidisciplinary approach that incorporates interactions between organisms in different pest categories.
A mass-balanced trophic model was developed for the coral reef lagoon of
Uvea atoll (New Caledonia) using the Ecopath software. The model accounts
for both pelagic and soft-bottom communities to describe the whole trophic
structure and biomass flows in the shallowest part of the atoll lagoon.
Phytoplankton production approximately equals the benthic primary
production. Benthic biomass accounts for more than 80% of the total
living biomass in the shallow lagoon. The benthic domain requires input of
food from the pelagic system (mainly zooplankton) and from adjacent areas to
sustain the biomass of predatory fishes. Predation pressure was found to be
a major force structuring the food web, but it is also suggested that water
circulation within the lagoon influences the amount of primary resources,
such as plankton, benthic microphytes and detritus.
The diets of larvae and juveniles (cut-off size: 20 mm) of Limnothrissa miodon (Boulenger) were studied at 2-h intervals during four 24-h cycles (two during the rainy and two during the dry season) in the Bukavu Basin, Lake Kivu. Larvae and juveniles are both diurnal feeders, and they both feed essentially on copepods, which are the most abundant prey in littoral areas, but they show a marked preference for larger organisms (cladocerans), when available. This indicates a rather intense resource sharing, and probable competition between life stages, which is partly solved through spatial behaviour and segregation. During the dry season, when food resources are scarcer, larvae and juveniles make slightly offset inshore migrations during the day, so that they feed at different places, on copepods of different sizes. Because diel migrations are size-structured, it is suggested that cannibalistic pressure (by adults over juveniles, and by juveniles over larvae) may also be a driving factor for these migrations. Plankton samples revealed that there were few cladocerans, while copepods were abundant and their size was similar to that prior to the introduction of L. miodon in Lake Kivu, thereby suggesting that some form of dynamic equilibrium has been reached in the food web.