Ecological functions in agroecosystems

Last changed: 30 October 2023
Bumble bee in a rape seed field.

The Bommarco lab empirically and theoretically explores ecosystem functions in insect-plant-soil food webs in agricultural ecosystems. We apply this to crop production, pest control and pollination.

Food web ecology

Ecosystem functions flow through complex food webs with interlinked arthropods plants and soil biota. We study how food web interactions and functions, such as predation, herbivory and nutrient stocks and flows are affected by land use, fertilization, disturbance and climate change. We map arthropod-plant food webs along land use gradients. We sample abundances organisms and combine that information with with DNA metabarcoding of consumer gut contents to assess who eats whom. We perform microcosm experiments and mathematical modelling, to understand how species traits such as body size and spatial niche, determine the ecosystem services pest regulation and crop yield in food webs. An overarching aim is to use food web ecology to inform the link between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

Collaborators: Prof. Tomas Roslin, Alva Curtsdotter Dr.  Kirsten Miller  Dr. Kate Wootton, Dr. Tomas Jonsson , Dr. Guillermo Aguilera Nuñez, Prof John Banks Prof HT Banks , Dr. Amanda Laubmeier Dr Yuval Zelnik

Insect pest management

We develop integrated practices and ecological understanding to manage insect pests in major Swedish crops such as cereals, oilseed rape and field beans. Insects that damage oilseed rape include flea beetles, stem flea beetles and slugs at emergence, and pollen beetles and pod midges in the summer. We examine pests on field beans, and aphids in cereals. We analyse long-term abundance time series to identify climatic and biological factors that regulate the populations. We investigate the efficiency of farming practices such as sowing flower strips, reduced tillage, increased seeding rate and altered seeding date as pest management options. We contribute to global syntheses of pest control research.

Collaborators: Dr Ola Lundin, Janina Heinen, Dr Guillermo Aguilera Nuñez, Dr. Sara Emery, Dr. Fabian Bötzl

Crop pollination

We examine benefits and management of pollination and pest control provided by naturally occurring arthropod predators in flowering crops such as field beans, oilseed rape and red clover. We test how landscape context and management such as crop rotation, plantings of flower strips and adding honey bees to flowering fields affect ecosystem services of pollination and crop yield. We explore population ecology and pollination efficiency of bumble bees, solitary bees, syrphid flies and other pollinating insects. We contribute to in global syntheses of pollination research.

Collaborators: Prof Neal Williams, Dr. Ola LundinJanina Heinen 

Values and barriers to safeguard pollinators

Active global research on pollinators has in the past couple of decades amassed an enormous amount of information on ways to mitigate and reverse the observed declines of pollinators and other insects. Despite this, pollinators remain under pressure from multiple human drivers. In the EU-funded research project SAFEGUARD we assess status and trends of European pollinators, their effects on ecosystem functions and options to reverse declines. We assess economic, social-cultural and environmental values and benefits of safeguarding pollinators. We identify motivations, barriers and limits for substantial implementation of pollinator-friendly practices taking a political ecology perspective.

Collaborators Prof René van der Wal, Dr Klara Fischer , Dr Ola Lundin  , Dr Juliette Young , Dr Tom Breeze , Prof Lorenzo Marini Prof Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter Dr Florence Damiens

Weed seed predation

Ground dwelling invertebrates such as carabid beetles, but also small mammals and certain birds contribute to natural weed regulation by eating weed seeds. We ask how important this ecosystem service is for weed regulation and how species diversity and abundance of seed predators determine seed predation in Sweden and across Europe. The research is part of the BioAWARE project in which we perform experiments and modelling to test how different types of predator diversity (species richness, abundance, diversity of functional groups) affects weed seed predation, and how to best manage weed seed predators to increase weed seed predation.

Read more: Weed seed predation – an overlooked ecosystem service.

Collaborators: Dr. Eirini Daouti, Dr. Mattias Jonsson, Dave Bohan (INRA, France), Michael Traugott (University of Innsbruck, Austria), Pavel Saska (Crop Researcgh Institute, Czech Repubilc), Wopke van der Werf (Wageningen University, The Netherlands)