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Effects of habitat isolation and predation pressure on an arboreal food-web

Type of publication Peer-reviewed
Publikationsform Original article (peer-reviewed)
Publication date 2012
Author Herrmann J.D. Kormann U. Schüepp C. Stocker Y. Herzog F. Entling M.H. ,
Project The importance of local habitat fragmentation versus landscape composition for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes - FRAGMENT
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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Community Ecology
Volume (Issue) 13
Page(s) 82 - 87
Title of proceedings Community Ecology
DOI 10.1556/ComEc.13.2012.1.10


Habitat isolation is expected to reduce population densities of animals via reduced immigration. However, altered trophic interactions in isolated habitats may modify these effects, especially since the strength of isolation effects is expected to increase with trophic rank. Here, we studied effects of habitat isolation on a food-web module consisting of herbivorous beetles, predatory spiders, spider-preying wasps and arthropod-feeding birds. We compare two systems that were studied in subsequent years: a study on 29 mature apple orchards that varied in the degree of isolation from forest, and a study on 20 groups of newly planted cherry trees that showed similar variation in their degree of habitat isolation. No birds were observed on the young fruit trees. Wasps and spiders showed the expected lower abundances in isolated habitats. On mature trees, birds were present and showed lower abundances in isolated habitats. Wasps were reduced to a similar degree by habitat isolation as on the young trees. Surprisingly, spider densities on the mature trees were higher in isolated than in connected habitat. This contrasting response of spiders to habitat isolation is likely to be due to release from bird predation in isolated mature orchards. In both study systems, beetles showed no significant effect of habitat isolation. Our results confirm that the sensitivity to fragmentation increases with trophic rank, and suggest that trophic interactions should receive more attention in fragmentation studies.