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The role of ants, birds and bats for ecosystem functions and yield in oil palm plantations

Denmead, Lisa H., Darras, Kevin, Clough, Yann, Diaz, Patrick, Grass, Ingo, Hoffmann, Munir P., Nurdiansyah, Fuad, Fardiansah, Rico, Tscharntke, Teja
Ecology 2017 v.98 no.7 pp. 1945-1956
Chiroptera, Elaeis guineensis, Formicidae, arthropod communities, arthropods, biodiversity, birds, crop yield, crops, ecological function, ecosystem services, flight, herbivores, pests, plantations, pollination, pollinators, predation, predators, Indonesia
One of the world's most important and rapidly expanding crops, oil palm, is associated with low levels of biodiversity. Changes in predator communities might alter ecosystem services and subsequently sustainable management but these links have received little attention to date. Here, for the first time, we manipulated ant and flying vertebrate (birds and bats) access to oil palms in six smallholder plantations in Sumatra (Indonesia) and measured effects on arthropod communities, related ecosystem functions (herbivory, predation, decomposition and pollination) and crop yield. Arthropod predators increased in response to reductions in ant and bird access, but the overall effect of experimental manipulations on ecosystem functions was minimal. Similarly, effects on yield were not significant. We conclude that ecosystem functions and productivity in oil palm are, under current levels of low pest pressure and large pollinator populations, robust to large reductions of major predators.