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Urbanisation alters ecological interactions: ant mutualists increase and specialist insect predators decrease on an urban gradient

Rocha, E., A. and Fellowes, M. D. E. (2020) Urbanisation alters ecological interactions: ant mutualists increase and specialist insect predators decrease on an urban gradient. Scientific Reports, 10. 6406. ISSN 2045-2322

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1038/s41598-020-62422-z

Abstract/Summary

The modification of habitats in urban areas is thought to alter patterns of species interactions, by filtering specialist species and those at higher trophic levels. However, empirical studies addressing these hypotheses remain limited in scope and number. This work investigates (1) how main urban land uses affect predator-prey and mutualistic interactions, and (2) how specialist and generalist predators respond to size and availability of urban green spaces. In a large town in the UK, experimental colonies of ant-attended Black bean aphid Aphis fabae and non-ant-attended Pea aphid Acyrthosiphon pisum were monitored over two years. Ants were more frequently found in highly urbanised sites; however mutualistic ants were also more often encountered when the habitat was more plant diverse. Aphids were not affected by urban land uses, but A. fabae numbers were positively related to the presence of mutualists, and so indirectly by urbanisation. Predators were the only group negatively affected by increased urbanisation, and specialist species were positively related to increased proportion of urban green areas within the habitats. While this work supports the hypothesis that specialist predators are negatively affected by urbanisation, we show for the first time that a fundamental ecological interaction, mutualism, is also affected by urbanisation.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Life Sciences > School of Biological Sciences > Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
ID Code:89449
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group

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