Sustainable Landscapes: Investigating the Landscape Scale Effects of Riparian Habitat on Natural Pest Control
Riparian corridors and natural habitat patches within agricultural landscapes are one key ingredient for sustainable agricultural communities. Landscape diversity that includes riparian habitat can improve natural biological cycles, reduce runoff, improve water quality and increase recreational economic value of a landscape. However, very little is understood regarding the services or negative impact that agricultural production receives from natural areas, such as natural pest control or increased pest problems. Our research goal is to determine how distance to natural habitat and landscape diversity affects pest abundance and natural pest control within walnut farms in the Central Valley of California.
1) What are the quantities and distribution patterns of serious agricultural arthropod pests from natural areas into farmlands?
2) Does crop production benefit from elevated densities of pest enemies, including both insect and avian predators, that move from natural areas into nearby farmlands? If so, how far does this beneficial effect of natural habitat extend into farmlands?
I presented related research on effects of natural habitat on insectivorous birds on farms in the Sacramento River Valley to agricultural community at several conferences. I made a presentation at National Conference for Agriculture and Environment in Monterey, California in November 2007. At this conference, I was able to connect and network with several people interested in the research in the Yolo and Solano county area, including Luana Kiger, the special assistant to the state conservationist, who requested a copy of the presentation and sent the presentation to stakeholders in the region. I gave a presentation at the Ecological Society of America annual meeting in San Jose, California in August 2007. Through this presentation, I made connections to Audubon California, meeting with Rodd Kelsey, an ecologist with the organization who is interested in collaborating on further research in the Yolo/Solano region. I was invited to attend a workshop at Eco-farm Conference in Monterey, California, on “Nature-based Farming”, in order to bring my expertise in birds and agriculture to determine the future research agenda for this topic.
I have also made connections to several growers in the Yolo and Solano County areas, including Judith Redmond at Full Belly Farm, and continued my connection to Craig McNamara. I will continue to make connections to growers in the region and will begin bird and insect research in the counties this winter.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
My research has the potential to contribute to the knowledge of how these landscapes affect on-farm wildlife, and what the area requirements are for pest control by birds and parasitoids. I will continue outreach to all possible stakeholders in the region to inform them of my results.