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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Plant size, resource concentration and natural enemies : a comparison of four herbivores in monocultures of brussels sprouts and dicultures of brussels sprouts/peppermint Smith, Risa Barbara

Abstract

This thesis was designed to address three seldom studied aspects of the relationship between herbivores and vegetational diversity. 1. Interactions between vegetational diversity and herbivore mortality due to predation were assessed by experimentally manipulating both the species diversity of plants and the densities of a common generalist predator, the spider Enoplagnatha ovata. 2. The importance of plant size to herbivore densities was examined by quantifying plant size (measured as plant height, width, leaf area and growth rates) and adjusting for it through covariate analysis. 3. Differences in population responses of several species of herbivores to both vegetational diversity and a predator, were compared by concurrently studying four lepidopterans. The main experiment used a two factor design, with two planting treatments and two predator treatments. The planting treatments consisted of plots planted with monocultures of brussels sprouts (Brassica oleraceae) and dicultures of brussels sprouts intercropped with peppermint (Mentha piperita). The natural enemy treatments involved augmentations of E ovata in some plots and untreated controls. Two of the herbivores studied, Plutella xylostella and Pieris rapae are monophagous lepidopterans, specializing on crucifers, while the others, Autographa californica and Mamestra configurata are polyphagous. For two species, P. xylostella and M. configurata responses to augmentations of the spider, E. ovata. were different in monocultures and dicultures. Reduced densities of these two species were found in monoculture plots with added spiders; in dicultures increased densities were found in plots with added spiders. This interaction effect points out that generalist predators can be effective in monocultures. I suggest that the importance of natural enemies in monocultures is often overlooked because only the initial colonization phase is being studied. By augmenting predator populations I was able to simulate densities equivalent to those in more established cropping systems. The increased herbivore densities in dicultures with added spiders might be explained by possible predation by E. ovata on other natural enemies of P. xylostella and M. configurata in dicultures but not in monocultures. Supporting evidence for this interpretation lies in the fact that percent parasitism of P. xylostella by the ichneumonid, Diadegma insulare was lower in plots with added spiders than in control plots. Furthermore, parasitism of P. xylostella by D. insulare increased with host density in diculture plots, but not in monoculture plots. Mamestra configurata was not subject to parasitism in this study, precluding assessment of a similar relationship. No A. californica larvae were found in plots with additional spiders. In contrast, P. rapae larvae were not affected by the experimental treatments. Plant size was a crucial determinant of both herbivore populations and percent parasitism of those herbivores. Most importantly, had plant size not been accounted for, the importance of vegetational diversity to both herbivore densities and percent parasitism would have been overestimated. For example, the incorrect conclusion, that vegetational diversity alone was important in determining the abundance of both of the generalist feeders would have been reached. The greater densities of A. californica in monocultures and M. configurata in dicultures were accounted for by plant size. Without plant size adjustments, percent parasitism of P. xylostella by D. insulare would have been misinterpeted as being greater in monocultures than dicultures. With plant size adjustments, the importance of E. ovata augmentations on lowering percent parasitismwas unmasked. All important interaction effects were discovered only after adjustments for plant size had been made. Despite the low densities of all herbivore species, significant responses to experimental treatments were found in three of the four species studied. Only P.l rapae was unaffected by any of the treatments. However, conclusions based on the feeding ng habits of the herbivores could not be made. The polyphagous feeders were affected by generalist predation as much as the crucifer specialist. Parasitism was found in only two of the species, P. xylostella and A. californica. Of these two species parasitism of the specialist, P. xylostella was affected by both vegetational diversity and generalist predation, whereas parasitism of A. californica was not. My study emphasizes multifaceted interactions between the size and diversity of a primary resource and several trophic levels of consumers. Multifactor models, involving several aspects of a cropping system, are required to uncover the important mechanisms behind variable herbivore responses to vegetational diversity.

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