Indexed on: 19 Feb '13Published on: 19 Feb '13Published in: Experimental and Applied Acarology
Seasonal changes in climate and plant diversity are known to affect the population dynamics of both pests and natural enemies within agroecosystems. In Brazil, spontaneous plants are usually tolerated in small-scale physic nut plantations over the year, which in turn may mediate interactions between pests and natural enemies within this agroecosystem. Here, we aimed to access the influence of seasonal variation of abiotic (temperature, relative humidity and rainfall) and biotic (diversity of spontaneous plants, overall richness and density of mites) factors on the communities of phytophagous and predatory mites found in a physic nut plantation and its associated spontaneous plants. Mite sampling was monthly conducted in dicotyledonous and monocotyledonous leaves of spontaneous plants as well as in physic nut shrubs over an entire year. In the dry season there was a higher abundance of phytophagous mites (Tenuipalpidae, Tarsonemidae and Tetranychidae) on spontaneous plants than on physic nut shrubs, while predatory mites (Phytoseiidae) showed the opposite pattern. The overall density of mites on spontaneous plants increased with relative humidity and diversity of spontaneous plants. Rainfall was the variable that most influenced the density of mites inhabiting physic nut shrubs. Agroecosystems comprising spontaneous plants associated with crops harbour a rich mite community including species of different trophic levels which potentially benefit natural pest control due to increased diversity and abundance of natural enemies.