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Tree phylogenetic diversity promotes host-parasitoid interactions
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Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
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Evidence from grassland experiments suggests that a plant community’s phylogenetic diversity (PD) is a strong predictor of ecosystem processes, even stronger than species richness per se. This has, however, never been extended to species-rich forests and host–parasitoid interactions. We used cavity-nesting Hymenoptera and their parasitoids collected in a subtropical forest as a model system to test whether hosts, parasitoids, and their interactions are influenced by tree PD and a comprehensive set of environmental variables, including tree species richness. Parasitism rate and parasitoid abundance were positively correlated with tree PD. All variables describing parasitoids decreased with elevation, and were, except parasitism rate, dependent on host abundance. Quantitative descriptors of host–parasitoid networks were independent of the environment. Our study indicates that host–parasitoid interactions in species-rich forests are related to the PD of the tree community, which influences parasitism rates through parasitoid abundance. We show that effects of tree community PD are much stronger than effects of tree species richness, can cascade to high trophic levels, and promote trophic interactions. As during habitat modification phylogenetic information is usually lost non-randomly, even species-rich habitats may not be able to continuously provide the ecosystem process parasitism if the evolutionarily most distinct plant lineages vanish.
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