The relationship between density and area depends on local growth rates and the area-dependence of migration rates. These rates vary among taxa due to dispersal behaviour, plot productivity and natural enemy impact. Previous studies in aphids suggest that aphid densities are highest in patches of intermediate sizes, and lower in small and large patches. The suggested mechanism causing these patterns is that the dispersal behaviour in aphids creates a mixture of area- and perimeter-dependent migration rates. In this paper, we used these predictions to examine the additional consequences of nutrient availability and natural enemies on the densityarea
relationship. The derived predictions were compared to data from a system with three aphid species, a set of aphid parasitoids and generalist natural enemies, and at two levels of plant nutrient availability. We find that predictions from the model based only on dispersal and local growth agree with the temporal dynamics of
density-area relationships for aphids in high nutrient patches. In patches with low nutrients, high parasitism rates appeared to cause a negative density-area relationship for aphids, thereby deviating from predictions driven by the aphids’ dispersal behavior. Hence, the dispersal model with scale-dependent migration rates can provide a useful tool for understanding insect distribution in patch size gradients, but the relative importance of top-down effects can completely change with plot productivity.
2007. Vol. 116, 1995-2006 p.