Costamagna, A. C. and D. A. Landis. 2006. Predators exert top-down control of soybean aphid across a gradient of agricultural management systems. Ecological Applications 16:1619-1628.
The discovery of soybean aphid, Aphis glycines Matusumura, in North America in 2000 provided the opportunity to investigate the relative strength of top-down and bottom-up forces in regulating populations of this new invasive herbivore. At the Kellogg Biological Station Long Term Ecological Research site in agroecology, we contrasted A. glycines establishment and population growth under three agricultural production systems that differed markedly in disturbance and fertility regimes. Agricultural treatments consisted of a conventional-tillage high-input system, a no-tillage high-input system, and a zero-chemical-input system under conventional tillage. By selectively restricting or allowing predator access we simultaneously determined aphid response to top-down and bottom-up influences. Irrespective of predator exclusion, our agricultural manipulations did not result in bottom-up control of A. glycines intrinsic rate of increase or realized population growth. In contrast, we observed strong evidence for top-down control of A. glycines establishment and overall population growth in all production systems. Abundant predators, including Harmonia axyridis, Coccinella septempunctata, Orius insidiosus, and various predaceous fly larvae, significantly reduced A. glycines establishment and population increase in all trials. In contrast to other systems in which bottom-up forces control herbivore populations, we conclude that A. glycines is primarily controlled via top-down influences of generalist predators under a wide range of agricultural management systems. Understanding the role of top-down and bottom-up forces in this context allows agricultural managers to focus on effective strategies for control of this invasive pest.
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