Cronin, J. T. 2004. Host-parasitoid extinction and colonization in a fragmented prairie landscape. Oecologia 139: 503-514.


Few field studies of natural populations have examined the factors influencing local extinctions and colonization of empty habitat patches for a prey species and its predator. In this study, I censussed planthopper (Prokelisia crocea; Hemiptera: Delphacidae) and egg parasitoid (Anagrus columbi; Hymenoptera: Mymaridae) incidence and densities in 147 host-plant patches (Spartina pectinata; Poaceae) over 7 planthopper generations in a tall-grass prairie landscape. For both species, the likelihood of going extinct in a patch was related to a number of patch-specific variables: density, temporal variability in density, proportion of hosts parasitized [planthopper only], host-plant density, patch size, patch isolation, and composition of the surrounding matrix. Colonization likelihood was related only to the physical attributes of the patch. There was high patch turnover in this prairie landscape. On average, planthoppers went extinct in 23% of the patches and A. columbi went extinct in 51% of the patches each generation. For the planthopper, extinction likelihood increased with a decrease in patch size and the proportion of the matrix composed of mudflat. Parasitism of eggs had no effect on the extinction likelihood of local P. crocea populations, suggesting that A. columbi may not play a major role in the patch dynamics of its host. The likelihood of extinction for A. columbi was dependent on factors that spanned three trophic levels. An increase in plant density, decrease in host density and decrease in parasitoid density all increased the likelihood of A. columbi extinction within a patch. The dependency on multiple trophic levels may explain the higher extinction risk for the parasitoid than its host. Anagrus columbi extinction was also affected by the matrix habitat surrounding the patch – the effect was the opposite of that for P. crocea. Finally, vacant patches were colonized at rates of 53% and 34% per generation for the planthopper and parasitoid, respectively. For both species, colonization probabilities decreased with an increase in patch isolation. High host densities in a patch also favored high rates of colonization by A. columbi. I discuss how anthropogenic changes to the prairie landscape can affect the metapopulation dynamics and persistence time of this host-parasitoid interaction.

Keywords: Anagrus columbi · Demography · Egg parasitoid · Landscape matrix · Metapopulation · Parasitism · Prokelisia crocea · Spartina pectinata · Spatial correlation · Tall-grass prairie

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