Conservation biological control and enemy diversity on a landscape scale

T. Tscharntke, R. Bommarco, Y. Clough, T.O. Crist, D. Kleijn, T.A. Rand, J.M. Tylianakis, S. Nouhuys, S. Vidal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

409 Citations (Scopus)


Conservation biological control in agroecosystems requires a landscape management perspective, because most arthropod species experience their habitat at spatial scales beyond the plot level, and there is spillover of natural enemies across the crop–noncrop interface. The species pool in the surrounding landscape and the distance of crop from natural habitat are important for the conservation of enemy diversity and, in particular, the conservation of poorly-dispersing and specialized enemies. Hence, structurally complex landscapes with high habitat connectivity may enhance the probability of pest regulation. In contrast, generalist and highly vagile enemies may even profit from the high primary productivity of crops at a landscape scale and their abundance may partly compensate for losses in enemy diversity. Conservation biological control also needs a multitrophic perspective. For example, entomopathogenic fungi, plant pathogens and endophytes as well as below- and above-ground microorganisms are known to influence pest-enemy interactions in ways that vary across spatiotemporal scales. Enemy distribution in agricultural landscapes is determined by beta diversity among patches. The diversity needed for conservation biological control may occur where patch heterogeneity at larger spatial scales is high. However, enemy communities in managed systems are more similar across space and time than those in natural systems, emphasizing the importance of natural habitat for a spillover of diverse enemies. According to the insurance hypothesis, species richness can buffer against spatiotemporal disturbances, thereby insuring functioning in changing environments. Seemingly redundant enemy species may become important under global change. Complex landscapes characterized by highly connected crop–noncrop mosaics may be best for long-term conservation biological control and sustainable crop production, but experimental evidence for detailed recommendations to design the composition and configuration of agricultural landscapes that maintain a diversity of generalist and specialist natural enemies is still needed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)294-309
JournalBiological Control
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi
  • pathogen pandora-neoaphidis
  • tropical habitat gradient
  • plant-insect interactions
  • agri-environment schemes
  • life-history traits
  • shared host-plant
  • land-use gradient
  • species-diversity
  • natural enemies

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