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Air pollution as an experimental probe of insect population dynamics

Formally Refereed
Authors: Andrew M. Liebhold
Year: 2019
Type: Scientific Journal
Station: Northern Research Station
Source: Journal of Animal Ecology


In Focus: Hunter, M. D., & Kozlov, M. V. (2019) The relative strengths of rapid and delayed density-dependence acting on a terrestrial herbivore change along a pollution gradient. Journal of Animal Ecology, 88, 665–676. Teasing apart the interactions between biotic and abiotic factors affecting animal population dynamics is a difficult task when based solely on the analysis of natural populations. Experimental manipulations of systems using microcosm studies can be powerful tools for probing such interactions, but microcosms are ultimately limited by their lack of complexity compared with nature. Hunter and Kozlov (2019) take a novel field-based experimental approach to studying abiotic influences on biotic interactions by quantifying how the presence of a pollutant source alters biotic processes driving populations of a forest leaf miner. They find that populations in proximity to a pollutant source show weaker direct density dependence and stronger delayed density dependence than more distant populations unaffected by pollution. These differences in density dependence cause higher equilibrium densities near the pollution source but surprisingly they do not alter leaf miner oscillatory dynamics. This creative study provides useful insight into how abiotic forces alter biotic population processes and how density dependence shapes the spatial dynamics of animal populations.


abiotic factors, density dependence, ecological experiment, generalist predator, pollution


Liebhold, Andrew M. 2019. Air pollution as an experimental probe of insect population dynamics. Journal of Animal Ecology. 88(5): 662-664.