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Research article2004Peer reviewed

Harvesting disrupts biological control of herbivores in a short-rotation coppice system

Bjorkman C, Bommarco R, Eklund K, Hoglund S


Disturbances such as harvesting often interfere with the ecological processes that lead to the biological control of insect pests. For willows, grown as short-rotation coppice crops harvested every third to fifth year, it has been suggested that high plant quality in the resprouting shoots after harvesting may explain observed high densities of herbivorous insects, especially leaf beetles (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), in the plantations. In this study, we show that generalist predators may be important as regulators of leaf beetle populations. All three leaf beetle species, which were studied for five years in 12 plantations, showed a negative correlation between the population growth rate from spring to fall and the abundance of the most common generalist predator Orthotylus marginalis (Heteroptera: Miridae). For the most abundant leaf beetle, Phratora vulgatissima, we also found a significant positive correlation between its population growth rate and egg survival, indicating an overall effect of predation on herbivore population growth. Harvesting, which takes place during the winter, had a negative effect on the abundance of leaf beetles and predators. However, the first year after harvesting, all three leaf beetle species regained this loss with a very high population growth rate. A reason for the better ability of the herbivores to recover from the disturbance may be that they, unlike the predators, mainly overwinter outside the plantations. All three leaf beetles peaked in density three years after harvesting whereas the density of generalist natural enemies increased or leveled off during the five-year period after harvesting. We conclude that predation by generalist predators is potentially important for population control of leaf beetles in willow coppice, but that the intermediate disturbance regime of around five years between harvests, appears to be too short to avoid disruption of biological control. Alternatives for more efficient biological control in short-rotation coppice systems may be a longer period between harvests that enables the predators to fully respond numerically, to leave natural enemies refuges at harvest, or to harvest adjacent plantations asynchronously

Published in

Ecological Applications
2004, Volume: 14, number: 6, pages: 1624-1633

      SLU Authors

    • Höglund, Solveig

      • Department of Entomology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences
      • Eklund, Karin

        • Department of Entomology, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

          UKÄ Subject classification

          Renewable Bioenergy Research
          Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
          Forest Science

          Publication identifier


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