Insect density-plant density relationships: a modified view of insect responses to resource concentrations

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Habitat area is an important predictor of spatial variation in animal densities. However, the area often correlates with the quantity of resources within habitats, complicating our understanding of the factors shaping animal distributions. We addressed this problem by investigating densities of insect herbivores in habitat patches with a constant area but varying numbers of plants. Using a mathematical model, predictions of scale-dependent immigration and emigration rates for insects into patches with different densities of host plants were derived. Moreover, a field experiment was conducted where the scaling properties of odour-mediated attraction in relation to the number of odour sources were estimated, in order to derive a prediction of immigration rates of olfactory searchers. The theoretical model predicted that we should expect immigration rates of contact and visual searchers to be determined by patch area, with a steep scaling coefficient, mu = -1. The field experiment suggested that olfactory searchers should show a less steep scaling coefficient, with mu a parts per thousand -0.5. A parameter estimation and analysis of published data revealed a correspondence between observations and predictions, and density-variation among groups could largely be explained by search behaviour. Aphids showed scaling coefficients corresponding to the prediction for contact/visual searchers, whereas moths, flies and beetles corresponded to the prediction for olfactory searchers. As density responses varied considerably among groups, and variation could be explained by a certain trait, we conclude that a general theory of insect responses to habitat heterogeneity should be based on shared traits, rather than a general prediction for all species.


Enheter & grupper

Ämnesklassifikation (UKÄ) – OBLIGATORISK

  • Zoologi


Sidor (från-till)1333-1344
StatusPublished - 2013
Peer review utfördJa

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