Author(s): Ebeling A, Klein AM, Weisser WW, Tscharntke T
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Abstract Plant diversity changes can impact the abundance, diversity, and functioning of species at higher trophic levels. We used an experimental gradient in grassland plant diversity ranging from 1 to 16 plant species to study multitrophic interactions among plants, cavity-nesting bees and wasps, and their natural enemies, and analysed brood cell density, insect diversity (species richness), and bee and wasp community similarity over two consecutive years. The bee and wasp communities were more similar among the high (16 species) diversity plots than among plots of the lower diversity levels (up to 8 species), and a more similar community of bees and wasps resulted in a more similar community of their parasitoids. Plant diversity, which was closely related to flower diversity, positively and indirectly affected bee diversity and the diversity of their parasitoids via increasing brood cell density of bees. Increasing plant diversity directly led to higher wasp diversity. Parasitism rates of bees and wasps (hosts) were not affected by plant diversity, but increased with the diversity of their respective parasitoids. Decreases in parasitism rates of bees arose from increasing brood cell density of bees (hosts), whereas decreasing parasitism rates of wasps arose from increasing wasp diversity (hosts). In conclusion, decreases in plant diversity propagated through different trophic levels: from plants to insect hosts to their parasitoids, decreasing density and diversity. The positive relationship between plant diversity and the community similarity of higher trophic levels indicates a community-stabilising effect of high plant diversity.
This article was published in Oecologia
and referenced in Entomology, Ornithology & Herpetology: Current Research