Spatial ecology of multiple parasitoids of a patchily-distributed host: Implications for species coexistence
Klapwijk MJ., Lewis OT.
1. The coexistence of multiple species sharing similar but spatially fragmented resources (e.g. parasitoids sharing a host species) may depend on their relative competitive and dispersal abilities, or on fine-scale resource partitioning. Four generalist and one specialist parasitoid species associated with the holly leaf miner, Phytomyza ilicis, in a woodland network of 127 holly trees were investigated. 2. To understand coexistence and persistence of these potential competitors, patterns of occurrence in relation to patch size and isolation, vertical stratum within patches, and incidence and abundance of potential competitors were documented. Field experiments creating empty habitat patches suggested that dispersal rather than local demographic processes determines abundance and incidence. 3. Parasitoids showed species-specific responses to patch properties, with the incidence of species determined mostly by patch size. Parasitism rates were less clearly related to patch characteristics, but parasitism rates for most species were lower in patches where the numerically dominant parasitoid species, Chrysocharis gemma, was present. No evidence of vertical stratification was found in species composition or abundance within patches, making it unlikely that coexistence is enhanced by fine-scale resource division. 4. Overall, the patterns detected may be attributed to the distribution of C. gemma and differences in species' ecology other than dispersal ability. The life history of C. gemma may allow it to pre-emptively exploit a large fraction of the available hosts, avoiding direct competition with other parasitoids. In contrast, direct competition is more likely among the pupal parasitoids Cyrtogaster vulgaris, Chrysocharis pubicornis, and Sphegigaster flavicornis which have a similar biology and phenology. For these species, coexistence may be facilitated by contrasting incidence in relation to patch size and isolation. © 2011 The Authors. Ecological Entomology © 2011 The Royal Entomological Society.