Response of generalist and specialist insect herbivores to landscape spatial structure
Landscape Ecology , Volume 12 - Issue 3 p. 185- 197
The purpose of this study was to investigate the effect of changes in landscape pattern on generalist and specialist insects. We did this by comparing the species richness and abundance of generalist and specialist herbivorous insects in alfalfa (Medicago sativa, L.) fields on 26 agricultural landscapes that differed in spatial structure. The insects were from the families Curculionidae (Coleoptera), weevils, and Cicadellidae (Auchennorhyncha), leafhoppers. We hypothesized that: (1) generalist richness and abundance would be highest in landscapes with high diversity (Shannon-Wiener); (2) specialist richness and abundance would be highest in landscapes with (i) high percent cover alfalfa and (ii) low mean inter-patch distance. We tested for these effects after controlling for the patch-level effects of field size, field age, frequency of disturbance and vegetation texture. The important findings of the study are: (1) generalist richness and abundance increased with increasing landscape diversity and (2) isolation (percent cover alfalfa in the landscape and/or mean inter-patch distance) does not affect specialist insects. These results are significant because they indicate that both generalist and specialist insects may move over much larger distances than previously thought. This is one of the first studies to demonstrate a large scale effect of spatial structure on insects across a broad range of landscapes.