González, E., Seidl, M., Kadlec, T., Ferrante, M. & Knapp, M. (2020) Distribution of ecosystem services within oilseed rape fields: effects of field defects on pest and weed seed predation rates.Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 295, 1-9. DOI:10.1016/j.agee.2020.106894 (IF2019 4,241; Q1 Ecology)
Frequent extreme weather events, which jeopardize agriculture by affecting crop health, characterize the ongoing climate change. Temporary patches where sown plants are poorly developed (hereafter “field defects”) are likely to increase with climate change and can be colonized by other plant species. Although perennial non-crop habitats can act as refuges for beneficial insects in agricultural landscapes and increase ecosystem services (ESs) in neighbouring arable fields, the relevance of field defects is unknown. Here, we quantified two ESs (pest and weed seed predation) in field defects within oilseed rape crops and related the ES levels with the activity-density of ground beetles and temperature. In 10 fields, we used artificial caterpillars made of plasticine and seed cards of two weed species (Taraxacum sp. and Stellaria sp.) to quantify the ESs in two sampling periods (spring and summer) and three habitat types: field defects, crops grown in standard conditions (field interiors) and crop-defect boundaries. Ground beetles were sampled using pitfall traps and classified into feeding guilds and body-size classes. Insects and mammals were the main pest predators, and predation increased in summer but did not differ among habitats. Seed predation rates for both species were significantly higher in summer. Predation upon Taraxacum seeds was higher in the field interiors, whereas the predation rate upon Stellaria seeds was significantly higher in the field interiors and defects compared to that in the crop-defect boundaries. The predation rate by insects increased with the activity-density of the medium- and large-sized carnivorous carabids, whereas the seed predation rate for both weed species was positively related to the activity-density of medium-sized herbivorous carabids. Finally, the mean and maximum temperatures were negatively linked to the predation rates on artificial caterpillars and seeds of Taraxacum, respectively. Our results suggest that these ephemeral habitats are not related to a strong decrease in ecosystem services; thus, field defects may not cause substantial changes in ES provisioning. We confirmed that ground beetles are important providers of both investigated ESs and showed that microclimatic conditions might play an important role in the regulation of ESs in agroecosystems.