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Stability lies in flowers: Plant diversification mediating shifts in arthropod food webs

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

Article numbere0193045
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>16/02/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>PLoS ONE
Issue number2
Number of pages18
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Arthropod community composition in agricultural landscapes is dependent on habitat characteristics, such as plant composition, landscape homogeneity and the presence of key resources, which are usually absent in monocultures. Manipulating agroecosystems through the insertion of in-field floral resources is a useful technique to reduce the deleterious effects of habitat simplification. Food web analysis can clarify how the community reacts to the presence of floral resources which favour ecosystem services such as biological control of pest species. Here, we reported quantitative and qualitative alterations in arthropod
food web complexity due to the presence of floral resources from the Mexican marigold (Tagetes erecta L.) in a field scale lettuce community network. The presence of marigold flowers in the field successfully increased richness, body size, and the numerical and biomass abundance of natural enemies in the lettuce arthropod community, which affected the number of links, vulnerability, generality, omnivory rate and food chain length in the community, which are key factors for the stability of relationships between species. Our results reinforce the notion that diversification through insertion of floral resources may assist in preventing pest outbreaks in agroecosystems. This community approach to arthropod interactions in agricultural landscapes can be used in the future to predict the effect of different management practices in the food web to contribute with a more sustainable management of arthropod pest species.