Increased pollinator habitat enhances cacao fruit set and predator conservation

Forbes, Samantha J., and Northfield, Tobin D. (2017) Increased pollinator habitat enhances cacao fruit set and predator conservation. Ecological Applications, 27 (3). pp. 887-899.

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The unique benefits of wild pollinators to the productivity of agricultural crops have become increasingly recognized in recent decades. However, declines in populations of wild pollinator species, largely driven by the conversion of natural habitat to agricultural land and broad-spectrum pesticide use often lead reductions in the provision of pollination services and crop production. With growing evidence that targeted pollinator conservation improves crop yield and/or quality, particularly for pollination specialist crops, efforts are increasing to substitute agriculturally intensive practices with those that alleviate some of the negative impacts of agriculture on pollinators and the pollination services they provide, in part through the provision of suitable pollinator habitat. Further, similarities between the responses of some pollinators and predators to habitat management suggest that efforts to conserve pollinators may also encourage predator densities. We evaluated the effects of one habitat management practice, the addition of cacao fruit husks to a monoculture cacao farm, on the provision of pollination services and the densities of two groups of entomophagous predators. We also evaluated the impacts of cacao fruit husk addition on pollen limitation, by crossing this habitat manipulation with pollen supplementation treatments. The addition of cacao fruit husks increased the number of fruits per tree and along with hand pollination treatments, increased final yields indicating a promotion of the pollination ecosystem service provided by the specialist pollinators, midges. We also found that cacao fruit husk addition increased the densities of two predator groups, spiders and skinks. Further, the conservation of these predators did not inhibit pollination through pollinator capture or deterrence. The findings show that, with moderate habitat management, both pollinator and predator conservation can be compatible goals within a highly specialized plant–pollinator system. The effectiveness of this habitat manipulation may be attributable to the increased availability of alternative habitat and food resources for both pollinators and predators. The results exemplify a win-win relationship between agricultural production and biological conservation, whereby agricultural practices to support vital pollinators and pollination services can increase production as well as support species conservation.

Item ID: 49006
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1939-5582
Keywords: agriculture; biodiversity; ecosystem services; habitat management; natural predators; pollination; Theobroma cacao; wild pollinators
Funders: Cowan Grant Trust (CGT)
Research Data:,
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2017 23:26
FoR Codes: 30 AGRICULTURAL, VETERINARY AND FOOD SCIENCES > 3004 Crop and pasture production > 300402 Agro-ecosystem function and prediction @ 50%
31 BIOLOGICAL SCIENCES > 3103 Ecology > 310302 Community ecology (excl. invasive species ecology) @ 50%
SEO Codes: 82 PLANT PRODUCTION AND PLANT PRIMARY PRODUCTS > 8202 Horticultural Crops > 820214 Tropical Fruit @ 40%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9604 Control of Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species > 960413 Control of Plant Pests, Diseases and Exotic Species in Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland @ 30%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960804 Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity @ 30%
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