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Stability of native and exotic lady beetle populations in a diverse landscape

Lamb, Robert J., Bannerman, Jordan A., Costamagna, Alejandro C.
Ecosphere 2019 v.10 no.3 pp. e02630
Coccinellidae, annuals, data collection, environmental factors, forest habitats, forest types, indigenous species, introduced species, landscapes, life history, perennials, population growth, rare species, sticky traps, summer, Michigan
The stability of populations is a central, yet challenging concept in ecology. Here, we examine the stability of annual abundance for populations of nine native and four exotic lady beetle species (Coccinellidae) in a mixed landscape in Michigan, USA, over 23 yr. The species have similar life histories, live together in the same habitats, and have been disturbed by the sequential introduction of exotic lady beetle species. The publicly available dataset was collected in a diverse landscape of three forest habitats, four annual crop habitats with different intensities of management, and three perennial crops. Replicated 1‐ha plots were sampled weekly with yellow sticky cards during the summer season for each habitat, three plots for each of the three forest types and six plots for each of the seven crop habitats. We quantified stability for each species and each species by habitat combination, using three parameters: trends in abundance, persistence, and temporal population variability. The most abundant lady beetle species were more stable than the uncommon and rare species. Habitat generalists had more stable population dynamics than specialists, but habitat breadth was confounded with lady beetle abundance. Exotic and native species with similar abundances had similar levels of stability. Exotic species disrupted the native populations, leading to declines in abundance for eight of nine species and increased population variability for the native species. The abundances of exotic lady beetles rose quickly to the long‐term mean. Our findings support the hypothesis that populations exhibit species‐specific levels of stability, not greatly affected by stochastic variations in environmental conditions or by habitat characteristics. We also show that exotic species can decrease the stability as well as the abundance of native species in a community of lady beetles.