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Review article - Peer-reviewed, 2021

Models of natural pest control: Towards predictions across agricultural landscapes

Alexandridis, Nikolaos; Marion, Glenn; Chaplin-Kramer, Rebecca; Dainese, Matteo; Ekroos, Johan; Grab, Heather; Jonsson, Mattias; Karp, Daniel S.; Meyer, Carsten; O'Rourke, Megan E.; Pontarp, Mikael; Poveda, Katja; Seppelt, Ralf; Smith, Henrik G.; Martin, Emily A.; Clough, Yann;


Natural control of invertebrate crop pests has the potential to complement or replace conventional insecticide based practices, but its mainstream application is hampered by predictive unreliability across agroecosystems. Inconsistent responses of natural pest control to changes in landscape characteristics have been attributed to ecological complexity and system-specific conditions. Here, we review agroecological models and their potential to provide predictions of natural pest control across agricultural landscapes. Existing models have used a multitude of techniques to represent specific crop-pest-enemy systems at various spatiotemporal scales, but less wealthy regions of the world are underrepresented. A realistic representation of natural pest control across systems appears to be hindered by a practical trade-off between generality and realism. Nonetheless, observations of context-sensitive, trait-mediated responses of natural pest control to land-use gradients indicate the potential of ecological models that explicitly represent the underlying mechanisms. We conclude that modelling natural pest control across agroecosystems should exploit existing mechanistic techniques towards a framework of contextually bound generalizations. Observed similarities in causal relationships can inform the functional grouping of diverse agroecosystems worldwide and the development of the respective models based on general, but context-sensitive, ecological mechanisms. The combined use of qualitative and quantitative techniques should allow the flexible integration of empirical evidence and ecological theory for robust predictions of natural pest control across a wide range of agroecological contexts and levels of knowledge availability. We highlight challenges and promising directions towards developing such a general modelling framework.


Crop; Ecological modelling; Land use; Landscape; Natural control; Pest

Published in

Biological Control

2021, volume: 163, article number: 104761

Authors' information

Alexandridis, Nikolaos
Lund University
Marion, Glenn
James Hutton Institute
Chaplin-Kramer, Rebecca
Stanford University
Dainese, Matteo
European Academy of Bozen-Bolzano
Ekroos, Johan
University of Helsinki
Grab, Heather
Cornell University
Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Department of Ecology
Karp, Daniel S.
University of California Davis
Meyer, Carsten
Leipzig University
O'Rourke, Megan E.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Pontarp, Mikael
Lund University
Poveda, Katja
Cornell University
Seppelt, Ralf
Helmholtz Center for Environmental Research (UFZ)
Smith, Henrik G.
Lund University
Martin, Emily A.
University of Hannover
Clough, Yann
Lund University

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