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Host plant quality, spatial heterogeneity, and the stability of mite predator–prey dynamics

By Matthew P. Daugherty


Population dynamics models suggest that both the over-all level of resource productivity and spatial variability in productivity can play important roles in community dynamics. Higher productivity environments are predicted to destabilize consumer–resource dynamics. Conversely, greater heterogeneity in resource productivity is expected to contribute to stability. Yet the importance of these two factors for the dynamics of arthropod communities has been largely overlooked. I manipulated nutrient availability for strawberry plants in a multi-patch experiment, and measured effects of overall plant quality and heterogeneity in plant quality on the stability of interactions between the phytophagous mite Tetranychus urticae and its predator Phytoseiulus persimilis. Plant size, leaf N content and T. urticae population growth increased monotonically with increasing soil nitrogen availability. This gradient in plant quality affected two correlates of mite population stability, population variability over time (i.e., coefficient of variation) and population persistence (i.e., proportion of plant patches colonized). However, the highest level of plant quality did not produce the least stable dynamics, which is inconsistent with the “paradox of enrichment”. Heterogeneity in plant productivity had modest effects on stability, with the only significant difference being less variable T. urticae densities in the heterogeneous compared to the corresponding homogeneous treatment. These results are generally congruent with metapopulation theory and other models for spatially segregated populations, which predict that stability should be governed largely by relative movement rates of predators and prey—rather than patch quality

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Publisher: Springer Netherlands
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Provided by: PubMed Central

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