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Temporal autocorrelation in host density increases establishment success of parasitoids in an experimental system

Elodie Vercken 1 Xavier Fauvergue 1 Nicolas Ris 1 Didier Crochard 1 Ludovic Mailleret 1, 2
2 BIOCORE - Biological control of artificial ecosystems
INRA - Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique, CRISAM - Inria Sophia Antipolis - Méditerranée , LOV - Laboratoire d'océanographie de Villefranche
Abstract : Environmental variation is classically expected to affect negatively population growth and to increase extinction risk, and it has been identified as a major determinant of establishment failures in the field. Yet, recent theoretical investigations have shown that the structure of environmental variation and more precisely the presence of positive temporal autocorrelation might alter this prediction. This is particularly likely to affect the establishment dynamics of biological control agents in the field, as host–parasitoid interactions are expected to induce temporal autocorrelation in host abundance. In the case where parasitoid populations display overcompensatory dynamics, the presence of such positive temporal autocorrelation should increase their establishment success in a variable environment. We tested this prediction in laboratory microcosms by introducing parasitoids to hosts whose abundances were manipulated to simulate uncorrelated or positively autocorrelated variations in carrying capacity. We found that environmental variability decreased population size and increased parasitoid population variance, which is classically expected to extinction risk. However, although exposed to significant environmental variation, we found that parasitoid populations experiencing positive temporal autocorrelation in host abundance were more likely to persist than populations exposed to uncorrelated variation. These results confirm that environmental variation is a key determinant of extinction dynamics that can have counterintuitive effects depending on its autocorrelation structure.
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Elodie Vercken, Xavier Fauvergue, Nicolas Ris, Didier Crochard, Ludovic Mailleret. Temporal autocorrelation in host density increases establishment success of parasitoids in an experimental system. Ecology and Evolution, Wiley Open Access, 2015, 5 (13), pp.2684-2693. ⟨10.1002/ece3.1505⟩. ⟨hal-01239677⟩

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