Land cover diversity increases predator aggregation and consumption of prey

Hannah J. Penn, Kacie J. Athey, Brian D. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

13 Scopus citations


A lower diversity of land cover types is purported to decrease arthropod diversity in agroecosystems and is dependent on patterns of land use and fragmentation. Ants, important providers of ecosystem services such as biological control, are susceptible to landscape-level changes. We determined the relationships between land cover diversity and fragmentation on the within-field spatial associations of ants to pests and resulting predation events by combining mapping and molecular tools. Increased land cover diversity and decreased fragmentation increased ant abundance, spatial association to pests and predation. Land cover diversity and fragmentation were more explanatory than land cover types. Even so, specific land cover types, such as deciduous forest, influenced ant and pest diversity more so than abundance. These results indicate that geospatial techniques and molecular gut content analysis can be combined to determine the role of land use in influencing predator–prey interactions and resulting predation events in agroecosystems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)609-618
Number of pages10
JournalEcology Letters
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Katelyn Kesheimer for assistance with SADIE analyses, Mary Gardiner for assistance with experimental design, Gary Coovert for ant identification, and two anonymous reviewers, Thomas Crist, Michael Sitvarin, John Obrycki and Ricardo Bessin for editorial comments. Financial support for this research was provided through the National Science Foundation GRFP 2011124868 awarded to HJP and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Hatch project under Accession Number 1003738, awarded to James Harwood. This is publication No. 17-08-015 of the Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station and is published with the approval of the Director.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 John Wiley & Sons Ltd/CNRS


  • Food web
  • Formicidae
  • landscape ecology
  • molecular gut content
  • spatial aggregation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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