Control of crop pests by shifting host plant availability and natural enemy activity at landscape scales has great potential to enhance the sustainability of agriculture. However, mainstreaming natural pest control requires improved understanding of how its benefits can be realized across a variety of agroecological contexts. Empirical studies suggest significant but highly variable responses of natural pest control to land-use change. Current ecological models are either too specific to provide insight across agroecosystems, or too generic to guide management with actionable predictions. We suggest getting the full benefit of available empirical, theoretical and methodological knowledge, by combining trait-mediated understanding from correlative studies with the explicit representation of causal relationships achieved by mechanistic modeling. To link these frameworks, we adapt the concept of archetypes, or context-specific generalizations, from sustainability science. Similar responses of natural pest control to land-use gradients across cases that share key attributes, such as functional traits of focal organisms, indicate general processes that drive system behavior in a context-sensitive manner. Based on such observations of natural pest control, a systematic definition of archetypes can provide the basis for mechanistic models of intermediate generality that cover all major agroecosystems worldwide. Example applications demonstrate the potential for upscaling understanding and improving prediction of natural pest control, based on knowledge transfer and scientific synthesis. A broader application of this mechanistic archetype approach promises to enhance ecology's contribution to natural resource management across diverse regions and social-ecological contexts.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2696
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number8
Early online date2022 Jun 23
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Dec

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology
  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use

Free keywords

  • archetype
  • conservation biological control
  • crop
  • ecological model
  • land use
  • landscape
  • natural enemy
  • natural pest control
  • pest
  • upscale


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