Structure and vertical stratification of plant galler-parasitoid food webs in two tropical forests
Paniagua MR., Medianero E., Lewis OT.
1. Networks of feeding interactions among insect herbivores and natural enemies such as parasitoids, describe the structure of these assemblages and may be critically linked to their dynamics and stability. The present paper describes the first quantitative study of parasitoids associated with gall-inducing insect assemblages in the tropics, and the first investigation of vertical stratification in quantitative food web structure. 2. Galls and associated parasitoids were sampled in the understorey and canopy of Parque Natural Metropolitano in the Pacific forest, and in the understorey of San Lorenzo Protected Area in the Caribbean forest of Panama. Quantitative host-parasitoid food webs were constructed for each assemblage, including 34 gall maker species, 28 host plants, and 57 parasitoid species. 3. Species richness was higher in the understorey for parasitoids, but higher in the canopy for gall makers. There was an almost complete turnover in gall maker and parasitoid assemblage composition between strata, and the few parasitoid species shared between strata were associated with the same host species. 4. Most parasitoid species were host specific, and the few polyphagous parasitoid species were restricted to the understorey. 5. These results suggest that, in contrast to better-studied leaf miner-parasitoid assemblages, the influence of apparent competition mediated by shared parasitoids as a structuring factor is likely to be minimal in the understorey and practically absent in the canopy, increasing the potential for coexistence of parasitoid species. 6. High parasitoid beta diversity and high host specificity, particularly in the poorly studied canopy, indicate that tropical forests may be even more species rich in hymenopteran parasitoids than previously suspected. © 2009 The Royal Entomological Society.