Agriculture is being challenged to provide food, and increasingly fuel, for an expanding global population. Producing bioenergy crops on marginal lands--farmland suboptimal for food crops--could help meet energy goals while minimizing competition with food production. However, the ecological costs and benefits of growing bioenergy feedstocks--primarily annual grain crops--on marginal lands have been questioned. Here we show that perennial bioenergy crops provide an alternative to annual grains that increases biodiversity of multiple taxa and sustain a variety of ecosystem functions, promoting the creation of multifunctional agricultural landscapes. We found that switchgrass and prairie plantings harbored significantly greater plant, methanotrophic bacteria, arthropod, and bird diversity than maize. Although biomass production was greater in maize, all other ecosystem services, including methane consumption, pest suppression, pollination, and conservation of grassland birds, were higher in perennial grasslands. Moreover, we found that the linkage between biodiversity and ecosystem services is dependent not only on the choice of bioenergy crop but also on its location relative to other habitats, with local landscape context as important as crop choice in determining provision of some services. Our study suggests that bioenergy policy that supports coordinated land use can diversify agricultural landscapes and sustain multiple critical ecosystem services.
In the United States, policy initiatives aimed at increasing sources of renewable energy are advancing bioenergy production, especially in the Midwest region, where agricultural landscapes dominate. While policy directives are focused on renewable fuel production, biodiversity and ecosystem services will be impacted by the land-use changes required to meet production targets. Using data from field observations, we developed empirical models for predicting abundance, diversity, and community composition of flower-visiting bees based on land cover. We used these models to explore how bees might respond under two contrasting bioenergy scenarios: annual bioenergy crop production and perennial grassland bioenergy production. In the two scenarios, 600,000 ha of marginal annual crop land or marginal grassland were converted to perennial grassland or annual row crop bioenergy production, respectively. Model projections indicate that expansion of annual bioenergy crop production at this scale will reduce bee abundance by 0 to 71%, and bee diversity by 0 to 28%, depending on location. In contrast, converting annual crops on marginal soil to perennial grasslands could increase bee abundance from 0 to 600% and increase bee diversity between 0 and 53%. Our analysis of bee community composition suggested a similar pattern, with bee communities becoming less diverse under annual bioenergy crop production, whereas bee composition transitioned towards a more diverse community dominated by wild bees under perennial bioenergy crop production. Models, like those employed here, suggest that bioenergy policies have important consequences for pollinator conservation.
Declines in species diversity resulting from anthropogenic alterations of the environment heighten the need to develop management strategies that conserve species and ecosystem services. This study examined how native plant species and their diversity influence the abundance and richness of beneficial arthropods, a functionally important group that provides ecosystem services such as pollination and natural pest suppression. Beneficial arthropods were sampled in replicated study plots containing native perennials planted in one-, two-, and seven-species mixtures. We found plant diversity had a positive impact on arthropod richness but not on arthropod abundance. An analysis of arthropod community composition revealed that each flower species attracted a different assemblage of beneficial arthropods. In addition, the full seven-species mixture also attracted a distinct arthropod community compared to single-species monocultures. Using a multivariate approach, we determined whether arthropod assemblages in two- and seven-species plots were additive and could be predicted based on assemblages from their component single-species plots. On average, assemblages in diverse plots were nonadditive when compared to assemblages predicted using single-species plots. Arthropod assemblages in two-species plots most closely resembled those of only one of the flower species in the mixture. However, the arthropod assemblages in seven-species plots, although statistically deviating from the expectation of an additive model, more closely resembled predicted communities compared to the assemblages found in two-species plots, suggesting that variability in arthropod community composition decreased as planting diversity increased. Our study demonstrates that careful selection of plants in managed landscapes can augment beneficial arthropod richness and support a more predictable arthropod community, suggesting that planning and design efforts could shape arthropod assemblages in natural as well as managed landscapes to meet targeted conservation or management goals.
Bees provide essential pollination services that are potentially affected both by local farm management and the surrounding landscape. To better understand these different factors, we modelled the relative effects of landscape composition (nesting and floral resources within foraging distances), landscape configuration (patch shape, interpatch connectivity and habitat aggregation) and farm management (organic vs. conventional and local-scale field diversity), and their interactions, on wild bee abundance and richness for 39 crop systems globally. Bee abundance and richness were higher in diversified and organic fields and in landscapes comprising more high-quality habitats; bee richness on conventional fields with low diversity benefited most from high-quality surrounding land cover. Landscape configuration effects were weak. Bee responses varied slightly by biome. Our synthesis reveals that pollinator persistence will depend on both the maintenance of high-quality habitats around farms and on local management practices that may offset impacts of intensive monoculture agriculture.
Integration of energy crops into agricultural landscapes could promote sustainability if they are placed in ways that foster multiple ecosystem services and mitigate ecosystem disservices from existing crops. We conducted a modeling study to investigate how replacing annual energy crops with perennial energy crops along Wisconsin waterways could affect a variety of provisioning and regulating ecosystem services. We found that a switch from continuous corn production to perennial-grass production decreased annual income provisioning by 75%, although it increased annual energy provisioning by 33%, decreased annual phosphorous loading to surface water by 29%, increased below-ground carbon sequestration by 30%, decreased annual nitrous oxide emissions by 84%, increased an index of pollinator abundance by an average of 11%, and increased an index of biocontrol potential by an average of 6%. We expressed the tradeoffs between income provisioning and other ecosystem services as benefit-cost ratios. Benefit-cost ratios averaged 12.06 GJ of additional net energy, 0.84 kg of avoided phosphorus pollution, 18.97 Mg of sequestered carbon, and 1.99 kg of avoided nitrous oxide emissions for every $1,000 reduction in income. These ratios varied spatially, from 2- to 70-fold depending on the ecosystem service. Benefit-cost ratios for different ecosystem services were generally correlated within watersheds, suggesting the presence of hotspots--watersheds where increases in multiple ecosystem services would come at lower-than-average opportunity costs. When assessing the monetary value of ecosystem services relative to existing conservation programs and environmental markets, the overall value of enhanced services associated with adoption of perennial energy crops was far lower than the opportunity cost. However, when we monitized services using estimates for the social costs of pollution, the value of enhanced services far exceeded the opportunity cost. This disparity between recoverable costs and social value represents a fundamental challenge to expansion of perennial energy crops and sustainable agricultural landscapes.
Aquatic insects are a common and important subsidy to terrestrial systems, yet little is known about how these inputs affect terrestrial food webs, especially around lakes. Mývatn, a lake in northern Iceland, has extraordinary midge (Chironomidae) emergences that result in large inputs of biomass and nutrients to terrestrial arthropod communities. We simulated this lake-to-land resource pulse by collecting midges from Mývatn and spreading their dried carcasses on 1-m2 plots at a nearby site that receives very little midge deposition. We hypothesized a positive bottom-up response of detritivores that would be transmitted to their predators and would persist into the following year. We sampled the arthropod community once per month for two consecutive summers. Midge addition resulted in significantly different arthropod communities and increased densities of some taxa in both years. Detritivores, specifically Diptera larvae, Collembola, and Acari increased in midge-addition plots, and so did some predators and parasitoids. Arthropod densities were still elevated a year after midge addition, and two years of midge addition further increased the density of higher-order consumers (e.g., Coleoptera and Hymenoptera). Midge addition increased arthropod biomass by 68% after one year and 108% after two years. By manipulating the nutrient pulse delivered by midges we were able to elucidate food web consequences of midge deposition and spatial and temporal dynamics that are difficult to determine based on comparative approaches alone. Resources cross ecosystem boundaries and are assimilated over time because of life-history strategies that connect aquatic and terrestrial food webs and these systems cannot be fully understood in isolation from each other.
Agronomic intensification has transformed many agricultural landscapes into expansive monocultures with little natural habitat. A pervasive concern is that such landscape simplification results in an increase in insect pest pressure, and thus an increased need for insecticides. We tested this hypothesis across a range of cropping systems in the Midwestern United States, using remotely sensed land cover data, data from a national census of farm management practices, and data from a regional crop pest monitoring network. We found that, independent of several other factors, the proportion of harvested cropland treated with insecticides increased with the proportion and patch size of cropland and decreased with the proportion of seminatural habitat in a county. We also found a positive relationship between the proportion of harvested cropland treated with insecticides and crop pest abundance, and a positive relationship between crop pest abundance and the proportion cropland in a county. These results provide broad correlative support for the hypothesized link between landscape simplification, pest pressure, and insecticide use. Using regression coefficients from our analysis, we estimate that, across the seven-state region in 2007, landscape simplification was associated with insecticide application to 1.4 million hectares and an increase in direct costs totaling between $34 and $103 million. Both the direct and indirect environmental costs of landscape simplification should be considered in design of land use policy that balances multiple ecosystem goods and services.
"The jack-of-all-trades is a master of none" describes the widely held belief that engaging in many tasks comes at the cost of being unable to do those tasks well. However, empirical evidence for generalist fitness costs remains scarce. We used published data from a long-term field survey of aphid parasitoids to determine whether relative specialists are more abundant than generalists on their shared hosts, a pattern that would be expected if generalists suffer a trade-off between host-range breadth and host-use efficiency. Relative specialists were more abundant than generalists on their shared hosts, but only when we used a measure of specialization that accounts for the taxonomic differences among parasitoids hosts. These results suggest that a generalist-specialist trade-off exists within this group of parasitoids and that the generalist fitness cost depends on the taxonomic breadth, rather than the number, of host species that are used.
Methyl salicylate, an herbivore-induced plant volatile, has been shown to attract natural enemies and affect herbivore behavior. In this study, methyl salicylate was examined for its attractiveness to natural enemies of the soybean aphid, Aphis glycines Matsumura (Hemiptera: Aphididae), and for its direct effects on soybean aphid population growth rates. Methyl salicylate lures were deployed in plots within organic soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] fields. Sticky card traps adjacent to and 1.5 m from the lure measured the relative abundance of natural enemies, and soybean aphid populations were monitored within treated and untreated plots. In addition, exclusion cage studies were conducted to determine methyl salicylates effect on soybean aphid population growth rates in the absence of natural enemies. Significantly greater numbers of syrphid flies (Diptera: Syrphidae) and green lacewings (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae) were caught on traps adjacent to the methyl salicylate lure, but no differences in abundance were found at traps 1.5 m from the lure. Furthermore, abundance of soybean aphids was significantly lower in methyl salicylate-treated plots. In exclusion cage studies, soybean aphid numbers were significantly reduced on treated soybean plants when all plants were open to natural enemies. When plants were caged, however, soybean aphid numbers and population growth rates did not differ between treated and untreated plants suggesting no effect of methyl salicylate on soybean aphid reproduction and implicating the role of natural enemies in depressing aphid populations. Although aphid populations were reduced locally around methyl salicylate lures, larger scale studies are needed to assess the technology at the whole-field scale.
Mandates for biofuel and renewable electricity are creating incentives for biomass production in agricultural landscapes of the Upper Midwest. Different bioenergy crops are expected to vary in their effects on biodiversity and ecosystem services. Here, we use data from the North American Breeding Bird Survey to forecast the impact of potential bioenergy crops on avian species richness and the number of bird species of conservation concern in Midwestern landscapes. Our analysis suggests that expanded production of annual bioenergy crops (e.g., corn and soybeans) on marginal land will lead to declines in avian richness between 7% and 65% across 20% of the region, and will make managing at-risk species more challenging. In contrast, replacement of annual with diverse perennial bioenergy crops (e.g., mixed grasses and forbs) is expected to bring increases in avian richness between 12% and 207% across 20% of the region, and possibly aid the recovery of several species of conservation concern.
Agricultural habitats are the recipients of ecosystem services provided by mobile arthropods like pollinators and natural enemies. These organisms can disperse between non-crop habitats and crops and can benefit from resources in non-crop areas. Thus, it may be important to conserve non-crop habitats to maintain ecosystem services within crops. However, even single ecosystem services, such as pollination or predation of pests, may be provided by a complex of species. Different species may respond to landscape structure at differing spatial scales. This raises the question: What scales should conservation take place at to sustain an ecosystem service? Here, we examine variation in predation of two potato pests in response to landscape structure. Specifically, predation of Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata, and green peach aphid, Myzus persicae, were quantified in potato and field-margin habitats set in landscapes that varied at different scales. At a local scale (meters), potato fields of different sizes were bordered by different areas of grassy field margin. At a broad scale (kilometers), these habitats were set in landscapes composed of varying percentages of non-crop habitat. Predation of both pests was associated with landscape structure, but this relationship occurred at different scales for each pest and interacted differently with habitat type. Predation of L. decemlineata eggs was greater in field margins than in the potato crop and increased in both habitats when field margins were large relative to potatoes. In contrast, aphid predation in field margins increased with the area of non-crop habitat within 1.5 km, but did not change in adjacent potato. These data emphasize that, even a single ecosystem service, such as predation of pests, can be influenced by landscape structure at multiple scales. More generally, it may be necessary to conserve heterogeneity both at local scales (individual farm fields) and broad scales (entire mosaic landscapes) to maintain ecosystem services. This may be especially true for ecosystem services that are the aggregate result of the actions of many species or ecological processes.
In the north central United States, populations of the exotic soybean aphid, Aphis glycines Matsumura (Hemiptera: Aphididae), are highly variable across space, complicating effective aphid management. In this study we examined relationships of plant nutrients, landscape structure, and natural enemies with soybean aphid abundance across Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, representing the range of conditions where soybean aphid outbreaks have occurred since its introduction. We sampled soybean aphid and its natural enemies, quantified vegetation land cover and measured soybean nutrients (potassium [K] and nitrogen [N]) in 26 soybean sites in 2005 and 2006. Multiple regression models found that aphid abundance was negatively associated with leaf K content in 2005, whereas it was negatively associated with habitat diversity (Simpsons index) and positively associated with leaf N content in 2006. These variables accounted for 25 and 27% of aphid variability in 2005 and 2006, respectively, suggesting that other sources of variability are also important. In addition, K content of soybean plants decreased with increasing prevalence of corn-soybean cropland in 2005, suggesting that landscapes that have a high intensification of agriculture (as indexed by increasing corn and soybean) are more likely to have higher aphid numbers. Soybean aphid natural enemies, 26 species of predators and parasitoids, was positively related to aphid abundance; however, enemy-to-aphid abundance ratios were inversely related to aphid density, suggesting that soybean aphids are able to escape control by resident natural enemies. Overall, soybean aphid abundance was most associated with soybean leaf chemistry and landscape heterogeneity. Agronomic options that can ameliorate K deficiency and maintaining heterogeneity in the landscape may reduce aphid risk.
Recently, food web studies have started exploring how resources from one habitat or ecosystem influence trophic interactions in a recipient ecosystem. Benthic production in lakes and streams can be exported to terrestrial habitats via emerging aquatic insects and can therefore link aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems. In this study, we develop a general conceptual model that highlights zoobenthic production, insect emergence, and ecosystem geometry (driven principally by area-to-edge ratio) as important factors modulating the flux of aquatic production across the ecosystem boundary. Emerging insect flux, defined as total insect production emerging per meter of shoreline (g C x m(-1) x yr(-1)) is then distributed inland using decay functions and is used to estimate insect deposition rate to terrestrial habitats (g C x m(-2) x yr(-1)). Using empirical data from the literature, we simulate insect fluxes across the water-land ecosystem boundary to estimate the distribution of fluxes and insect deposition inland for lakes and streams. In general, zoobenthos in streams are more productive than in lakes (6.67 vs. 1.46 g C x m(-2) x yr(-1)) but have lower insect emergence to aquatic production ratios (0.19 vs. 0.30). However, as stream width is on average smaller than lake radius, this results in flux (F) estimates 2 1/2 times greater for lakes than for streams. Ultimately, insect deposition onto land (within 100 m of shore) adjacent to average-sized lakes (10-ha lakes, 0.021 g C x m(-2) x yr(-1)) is greater than for average-sized streams (4 m width, 0.002 g C x m(-2) x yr(-1)) used in our comparisons. For the average lake (both in size and productivity), insect deposition rate approaches estimates of terrestrial secondary production in low-productivity ecosystems (e.g., deserts and tundra, approximately 0.07 g C x m(-2) x yr(-1)). However, larger lakes (1300 ha) and streams (16 m) can have average insect deposition rates (approximately 0.01-2.4 g C x m(-2) x yr(-1)) comparable to estimates of secondary production of more productive ecosystems such as grasslands. Because of the potentially large inputs of emerging aquatic insects into terrestrial habitats, ecosystem processes and terrestrial consumers can be influenced by insect inputs. The relative contribution of lakes and streams to this flux will vary among landscapes depending on the number and size of these ecosystems types on the landscape.
Determining when multiple predator species provide better pest suppression than single species is a key step towards developing ecologically-informed biological control strategies. Theory and experiments predict that resource partitioning among functionally different predator species can strengthen prey suppression, because as a group they can access more prey types than functionally redundant predators. However, this prediction assumes that competition limits predation by functionally similar predators. Differences in prey density can alter the strength of competition, suggesting that prey abundance may modulate the effect of combining functionally diverse species. The experiment documented here examined the potential for functional differences among predator species to promote suppression of an insect pest, the Colorado potato beetle, Leptinotarsa decemlineata (Say) (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), at different prey densities. Predation was compared at two prey densities between microcosms that contained one predator species or two functionally distinct species: the lady beetle, Coleomegilla maculata De Geer (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae) that kills early L. decemlineata instars, and the soldier bug, Podisus maculiventris Say (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae) that kills late instars. The data show that combining these predators increased predation only when prey densities were low. This suggests that multiple predator species may only provide greater biological control than single species in systems where prey is limiting.
Multichannel omnivory by generalist predators, especially the use of both grazing and epigeic prey, has the potential to increase predator abundance and decrease herbivore populations. However, predator use of the epigeic web (soil surface detritus/microbe/algae consumers) varies considerably for reasons that are poorly understood. We therefore used a stable isotope approach to determine whether prey availability and predator hunting style (active hunting vs. passive web-building) impacted the degree of multichannel omnivory by the two most abundant predators on an intertidal salt marsh, both spiders. We found that carbon isotopic values of herbivores remained constant during the growing season, while values for epigeic feeders became dramatically more enriched such that values for the two webs converged in August. Carbon isotopic values for both spider species remained midway between the two webs as values for epigeic feeders shifted, indicating substantial use of prey from both food webs by both spider species. As the season progressed, prey abundance in the grazing food web increased while prey abundance in the epigeic web remained constant or declined. In response, prey consumption by the web-building spider shifted toward the grazing web to a much greater extent than did consumption by the hunting spider, possibly because passive web-capture is more responsive to changes in prey availability. Although both generalist predator species engaged in multichannel omnivory, hunting mode influenced the extent to which these predators used prey from the grazing and epigeic food webs, and could thereby influence the strength of trophic cascades in both food webs.
Biomass crops grown on marginal soils are expected to fuel an emerging bioenergy industry in the United States. Bioenergy crop choice and position in the landscape could have important impacts on a range of ecosystem services, including natural pest-suppression (biocontrol services) provided by predatory arthropods. In this study we use predation rates of three sentinel crop pests to develop a biocontrol index (BCI) summarizing pest-suppression potential in corn and perennial grass-based bioenergy crops in southern Wisconsin, lower Michigan, and northern Illinois. We show that BCI is higher in perennial grasslands than in corn, and increases with the amount of perennial grassland in the surrounding landscape. We develop an empirical model for predicting BCI from information on energy crop and landscape characteristics, and use the model in a qualitative assessment of changes in biocontrol services for annual croplands on prime agricultural soils under two contrasting bioenergy scenarios. Our analysis suggests that the expansion of annual energy crops onto 1.2 million ha of existing perennial grasslands on marginal soils could reduce BCI between -10 and -64% for nearly half of the annual cropland in the region. In contrast, replacement of the 1.1 million ha of existing annual crops on marginal land with perennial energy crops could increase BCI by 13 to 205% on over half of the annual cropland in the region. Through comparisons with other independent studies, we find that our biocontrol index is negatively related to insecticide use across the Midwest, suggesting that strategically positioned, perennial bioenergy crops could reduce insect damage and insecticide use on neighboring food and forage crops. We suggest that properly validated environmental indices can be used in decision support systems to facilitate integrated assessments of the environmental and economic impacts of different bioenergy policies.
Cross-ecosystem movement of nutrients and biomass can have important effects on recipient systems. Emerging aquatic insects are subsidies to terrestrial ecosystems and can influence foodweb interactions in riparian systems. In a 2-year field experiment, we simulated aquatic insect deposition by adding adult midge carcasses (150 g dry mass m(-2) year(-1)) to 1-m(2) heathland plots at a site with low natural midge deposition. We established four levels of midge-addition treatments and measured stable isotopes (?(13)C and ?(15)N) in plants and arthropods within each treatment. We used a multiple-source isotope Bayesian mixing model to estimate the terrestrial versus aquatic contribution to the diets of arthropods. Aquatic resources were incorporated into plant, detritivore, and predator biomass. Detritivorous Collembola showed the greatest difference in isotope values (+3 ‰ ?(15)N and +4 ‰ ?(13)C) between midge-addition and reference treatments. Isotope values of small spiders followed the same trend of enrichment as Collembola while other arthropods (mites and large spiders) were only enriched after 2 years of midge addition. Although predator diets did not change, they became isotopically enriched via their likely prey (Collembola). Plants also had elevated ?(15)N (+1 ‰) in midge-addition treatments. The time required and amount of midge-derived C and N detected varied and depended on trophic position. Midge-derived nutrients were no longer present in arthropod biomass in the year following midge addition. Aquatic insect carcasses can be rapidly incorporated into terrestrial food webs in nearshore habitats, and repeated inputs can be detected at multiple trophic levels, thus highlighting the importance of the detrital pathway for aquatic to terrestrial cross-ecosystem subsidies.
The soybean aphid, Aphis glycines Matsumura (Hemiptera: Aphididae), is an economically important pest of soybean, Glycine max (L.) Merrill, in the United States. Phenological information of A. glycines is limited; specifically, little is known about factors guiding migrating aphids and potential impacts of long distance flights on local population dynamics. Increasing our understanding of A. glycines population dynamics may improve predictions of A. glycines outbreaks and improve management efforts. In 2005 a suction trap network was established in seven Midwest states to monitor the occurrence of alates. By 2006, this network expanded to 10 states and consisted of 42 traps. The goal of the STN was to monitor movement of A. glycines from their overwintering host Rhamnus spp. to soybean in spring, movement among soybean fields during summer, and emigration from soybean to Rhamnus in fall. The objective of this study was to infer movement patterns of A. glycines on a regional scale based on trap captures, and determine the suitability of certain statistical methods for future analyses. Overall, alates were not commonly collected in suction traps until June. The most alates were collected during a 3-wk period in the summer (late July to mid-August), followed by the fall, with a peak capture period during the last 2 wk of September. Alate captures were positively correlated with latitude, a pattern consistent with the distribution of Rhamnus in the United States, suggesting that more southern regions are infested by immigrants from the north.
Related JoVE Video
Journal of Visualized Experiments
What is Visualize?
JoVE Visualize is a tool created to match the last 5 years of PubMed publications to methods in JoVE's video library.
How does it work?
We use abstracts found on PubMed and match them to JoVE videos to create a list of 10 to 30 related methods videos.
Video X seems to be unrelated to Abstract Y...
In developing our video relationships, we compare around 5 million PubMed articles to our library of over 4,500 methods videos. In some cases the language used in the PubMed abstracts makes matching that content to a JoVE video difficult. In other cases, there happens not to be any content in our video library that is relevant to the topic of a given abstract. In these cases, our algorithms are trying their best to display videos with relevant content, which can sometimes result in matched videos with only a slight relation.