Using gall wasps on oaks to test broad ecological concepts

Peter W. Price, Warren G. Abrahamson, Mark D. Hunter, G. Melika

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Planning conservation of insect herbivores requires knowing what needs to be conserved and developing a set of predictor variables that aid management. We conducted a state-wide survey to examine the species richness of gall wasps (Hymenoptera: Cynipidae) on six oak species dominant in the threatened scrub-oak vegetation in peninsular Florida. Eighty-eight cynipid species were recorded; 23 were new species to Florida (a 35% increase), including 17 species new to science and 6 species newly recorded in the state. The cynipid species represented 68% of cynipids of Florida, on only 24% of oak species sampled. This fauna represents a hotspot of richness, justifying conservation initiatives in scrub-oak habitat and throughout the state. We derived predictor variables from general ecological concepts: (1) the theory of island biogeography that insect species richness increases as host plant geographic area increases and as local abundance increases, (2) the plant-architecture hypothesis that insect species richness increases with increased plant size, and (3) phytochemical patterns in leaves, including nutrients and digestibility reducers predicting suitability for insect herbivores. Concepts 1 and 2, developed for large scales and species numbers, were tested at smaller scales relevant to much conservation research and management. A stepwise multiple regression including all predictor variables accounted for 99% of the variance in cynipid species richness with three variables:foliar hemicellulose concentration (81%), host geographic area (16%), and tree height (2%). The trends were negative, however, and opposite to those predicted by concepts 1 and 2. Ecological theory was not applicable to discovery of predictors of cynipid species richness on six oak species. Thus, we promote caution in applying ecological theory to a narrow set of species without specific testing of how patterns conform to theoretical predictions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1405-1416
Number of pages12
JournalConservation Biology
Volume18
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2004

Fingerprint

Cynipidae
gall
wasp
Conservation
Quercus
species diversity
insects
species richness
shrublands
testing
Phytochemicals
insect
herbivores
Nutrients
ecological theory
scrub
Planning
plant architecture
herbivore
hemicellulose

Keywords

  • Cynipidae
  • Florida
  • Hymenoptera
  • Plant architecture hypothesis
  • Species richness hotspot
  • Theory of island biogeography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation

Cite this

Using gall wasps on oaks to test broad ecological concepts. / Price, Peter W.; Abrahamson, Warren G.; Hunter, Mark D.; Melika, G.

In: Conservation Biology, Vol. 18, No. 5, 10.2004, p. 1405-1416.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Price, Peter W. ; Abrahamson, Warren G. ; Hunter, Mark D. ; Melika, G. / Using gall wasps on oaks to test broad ecological concepts. In: Conservation Biology. 2004 ; Vol. 18, No. 5. pp. 1405-1416.
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