Manipulating the landscape to influence functional biodiversity is a new option in the construction of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) strategy. The idea is to eventually enhance natural controls (ecosystem services) by acting at the landscape level for the benefit of agricultural crops.
It is a promising but challenging area, demanding a range of scientific expertise. A number of ENDURE teams have explored the possibilities it offers, including researchers examining biological controls and field vegetables.
Indeed, ENDURE’s work in this sphere has stimulated the recently launched PURE project (Pesticide Use-and-risk Reduction in European farming systems with Integrated Pest Management) to include research on ‘exploring pest suppressive landscapes’ in its four-year work programme. PURE’s work in this area will be led by Graham Begg from the Scottish Crop Research Institute, who will be working with colleagues from France’s National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and Wageningen University in The Netherlands.
Landscape management is also the focus of an International Organisation for Biological Control (West Palaearctic Regional Section) (IOBC) Working Group to which ENDURE has made an active contribution. This included last year the organisation of a session devoted to ENDURE’s work in this sphere during the Landscape Management for Functional Biodiversity Working Group’s fourth meeting, a three-day event which produced a wide range of papers now collected in an IOBC bulletin (Volume 56) that can be ordered online.
The ENDURE session examined ‘Integrated Pest Management at the landscape level: measuring and modelling’ and was organised by Andrew Ferguson from Rothamsted Research in the UK and Claire Lavigne from INRA in France.
Andrew presented ‘Landscape studies for conservation biological control research: status and future needs. A meta-review from the European Union Network of Excellence project ENDURE’. This meta-review of 90 review papers was used to assess the status of research into landscape management for conservation biological control and identify gaps in the science. Key findings included the large number of reviews identifying the need for more studies on the effect of landscape-scale interactions. While some studies show effects on populations of beneficial insects, ENDURE identified a lack of assessment of the impacts of different landscape configurations on pests and on crop damage as a barrier to progress and said a common approach to sampling methodologies would increase the value of individual studies.
Andrea Veres, from Hungary’s Szent István University, presented ‘A literature review on impacts of landscapes characteristics on densities of pests and on their regulation by natural enemies’, a literature review on the impact of large-scale landscape composition on the abundance of pests or conservation biological control (CBC) effectiveness, measured in terms of parasitism or predation rates. A large number of cases reported significant landscape effects. But most of these were not consistent. One significant trend among the papers reviewed was increased CBC or lesser pest abundance with increasing non-cultivated landscape areas around sampling points.
Camilla Moonen, from Italy’s Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, presented ‘Parameter harmonisation for calculating landscape configuration effects on weed communities’, the work of ENDURE weed scientists who have explored the possibility of re-analysing existing weed community databases for possible surrounding landscape configuration effects.
Existing databases were characterised and the weed measurement and landscape metrics important for such analyses were selected. Then all the involved partners tested relevant hypotheses on their database, following agreed guidelines.
The results from these case studies confirmed the importance of incorporating ecological and biological characteristics of the weed flora. They also confirmed the need to define landscape metrics which express landscape mosaic structure and land use diversity at relatively small scales, ranging from directly adjacent to the field (field margins) up to about 200m from the field. The group hopes their work will stimulate other weed scientists to repeat the exercise on their own databases to continue the discussion on parameter definition for testing landscape effects on weed communities.
Stefano Carlesi, also from Scuola Superiore Sant’Anna, presented ‘Maize weed communities in a highly anthropized landscape: which vegetation response variables and landscape descriptors’. This study aimed to define a methodology to support the choice of landscape descriptors and weed response variables and the spatial scale at which their interactions occur, for which few scientific guidelines are currently available.
A case study was conducted in a highly anthropized landscape along the Tuscan and Ligurian coastline with the aim of determining how land abandonment and urbanisation affect in-field weed communities. Researchers selected a variety of landscape descriptors for field margins, landscape structure and landscape composition, and landscape structure and composition were considered in circles of various radii (between 100m and 1,500m).
The researchers found that the sensitivity of each weed response variable depended on the scale at which the landscape descriptors were measured and on the characteristics of the field margins. The study shows, they say, that the selection of weed response variables, landscape descriptors and the scale at which data are collected are extremely important and may considerably affect results.
The session was closed by Philippe Tixier from CIRAD in France, who presented ‘Spatial ecology of Cosmopolites sordidus in banana field landscapes’. Cosmopolites sordidus (black weevil) is a major pest for both commercial banana producers and smallholders in developing countries and a CIRAD team has taken a comprehensive approach to understanding the spatial epidemiology of Cosmopolites sordidus in banana fields and to designing landscape strategies to minimise population levels and spread. The knowledge gained has been recently applied to re-design the spatial configuration of large banana-growing areas in the French West Indies to control this low-mobility pest as a viable alternative to insecticidal control (previously based on the use of Chlordecone).
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