Photo: Mattias Jonsson


Ecosystem services and conservation projects

Crop pests cause enormous crop losses despite control efforts. Each pest species has enemies that provide biological pest control. Natural enemies occur in naturally in the agricultural landscape and include spiders, parasitic wasps and a number predatory insects such as lady bird beetles and ground beetles.

Despite intensive land use, many agricultural landscapes still maintain a high biodiversity. For example, 46% of the species on the Swedish red list are connected to the agricultural landscape. A large proportion of this biodiversity depend on remnant natural or semi-natural habitats, for example grasslands.

Insect pollinators are essential for the productivity of 150 (84%) of all European crops by increasing yield and improving crop quality. Both managed (mainly honeybees) and wild pollinators (e.g. bumblebees, solitary bees and hoverflies) provide pollination services for crops.

We perform research on how land use and climate change influence biodiversity, species distributions and species interactions in agricultural landscapes, and how degraded communities and ecosystems can be efficiently restored. In collaboration with several research groups nationally and internationally, we explore the ecological processes that underpin the generation of services in the agricultural landscape. We develop options and provide policy support for the management of multiple ecosystem services.

Ongoing projects

* Multifunctional agriculture
* Biological control across Europe
* Pollinators and pollination across Europe
* Biodiversity conservation at multiple scales
* Restoring biodiversity and ecosystem functions
* Ecosystem services in red clover
* Ecosystem services in oilseed crops
* Food-web interactions and biological control at organic and conventional farms
* The importance of landscape and local structure for pest management in coffee and maize
* Pollinator community shifts and plant-pollinator interactions in a changing climate
* Spatial population dynamics at climatic range margins
* Trap crops and physical separation of carrot fields as environmental sound control strategies for the carrot psyllid
* Linking farmland biodiversity to ecosystem services for effective ecofunctional intensification

SAPES - Multifunctional agriculture: harnessing biodiversity for sustaining agricultural production and ecosystem services

SAPES is funded by FORMAS to strengthen excellent research environments. This collaboration between Stockholm university, Lund university and SLU, aims to further the knowledge on the influence of agricultural land use on biodiversity and the delivery multiple ecosystem services below and above ground. Such information will enable the identification of trade-offs and synergies in the management of multiple services. Importantly, we will employ an interdisciplinary approach to link knowledge of ecological and socio-economic processes under alternative governance regimes for exploring the value of ecosystem services and the sustainability of the agricultural landscape as a socio-ecological system. Resulting land use models will provide tools for developing sustainably productive agriculture in multi-functional landscapes.

Contacts: Riccardo Bommarco, Barbara Ekbom


APPEAL - Assessment and valuation of Pest suppression Potential through biological control in European Agricultural Landscapes

Biological pest control provided by natural enemies is an ecosystem service of immense economic value - threatened by agricultural intensification. It is a service for which great amounts of background information have been gathered and it is, therefore, an excellent study system for exploring generalities of delivery, stability and value of ecosystem services for land use, biodiversity, and society.

APPEAL investigates a) the relationship between land use and biodiversity, b) biodiversity and the ecosystem service of biological control. Furthermore, it will c) provide a framework for estimating the value of biological control. As a model pest APPEAL uses cereal aphids, which are among the economically most important insect pests in Europe. These aphids are attacked by a range of natural enemies such as lady beetles, ground beetles and spiders, and the biological control service provided by these species is known to be substantial.

Contacts: Mattias Jonsson


STEP – Status and Trends of European Pollinators

Pollinators form a key component of European biodiversity and provide vital ecosystem services to crops and wild plants. There is growing evidence of declines in pollinated plants and parallel declines in both wild and domesticated pollinators. Gathering the foremost scientists in the area, STEP explore the nature, extent, and cause of these declines, examine functional traits associated with particular risks, develop pollinator Red lists, and lay the ground for monitoring programmes. We  also assess the relative importance and ecological and economic impacts of potential drivers for decline including climate change, habitat loss, agricultural intensification, pathogens, alien species and their interactions. We integrate the gained knowledge in a policy relevant framework, creating evidence based decision support tools and provide a communication platform with a wide range of stakeholders and scientists across Europe and beyond.

Contact Riccardo Bommarco


SCALES - Securing the conservation of biodiversity across administrative levels and spatial, temporal, and ecological scales.

SCALES has a broad aim to understand how environmental and anthropogenic pressures affect biodiversity at different spatial and temporal scales. An important aim is to gain information on the scaling of ecological processes and match this with administrative and planning schemes developed at relevant scales. The SCALES project will provide the ecological and socio-economic research needed to guide scale dependent management actions. In this project SLU will focus on the scaling of ecological processes and the organisation of species assemblages across scales in changing landscapes.

Contact: Riccardo Bommarco


RESTORE - Habitat restoration in fragmented landscapes: effects on biodiversity and ecosystem functions

We develop strategies for restoring habitats and ecosystems. Large resources are invested in habitat restoration in Sweden each year. However, strategies for directing restoration efforts to enhance biodiversity and functioning underpinned by thorough ecological knowledge are largely lacking. Landscape level restoration of habitat networks have, although discussed, not been developed and implemented. We investigate how species community reassembly and reconstruction of ecosystem functioning following habitat restoration are linked to the structure of the surrounding landscape. We assess if the species traits that predict re-colonization success are the same that predict extinction risk in assembling communities after restoration. The project will provide a knowledge base for designing restoration strategies at the landscape scale.

Contact: Erik Öckinger, Marie Winsa


Pollination and pest control in organic clover

Production of clover seeds for sowing depend heavily on two ecosystem services: insect pollination mainly by bumble bees and biological control of seed eating weevils by parasitoids. Without insect pollination, the clover seed yield becomes negligible, and Apion weevils that attack the clover flowering heads cause serious damage with observed yield losses up to 64%. The project aims to develop management schemes to enhance the ecosystem services pollination and biological pest control in organic clover seed production, at the landscape, farm, and field level.

Contact: Riccardo Bommarco, Ola Lundin


Ecosystem services in oilseed crops

Management of ecological services, such as pollination and biological pest control in crops, need to be intelligently combined with external inputs such as insecticides to enhance and stabilize yields in conventional farming. This requires an understanding of ecological factors that regulate the numbers of beneficial and pest organisms in
the landscape. The contribution of pollination by wild and domesticated insects for yield and quality of cross-fertilised crops is surprisingly poorly known. Recent results indicate that the importance of insect pollination has been underestimated in oilseed rape, and although an important crop world wide, no recommendation exists on how to optimise pollination. In collaboration with farmers organisations, seed growers,
seed companies, bee-keepers organisations, we perform field and greenhouse experiments to develop management strategies for and assess the importance of wild and managed pollinators for crop yield in oilseed rape (OSR). We furthermore explore how land use and crop cultivation in the landscape affect pest insect in OSR and natural enemy occurrences, and their biocontrol efficiency, as well as spread of insecticide resistance in the pest. This information is used to build integrated pest management (IPM) programs for beneficial insects in arable crops.

Contact: Riccardo Bommarco, Sandra Lindström


Food-web interactions and biological control at organic and conventional farms

Organic farming has positive effects on species richness and abundance of various taxa, including plants and animals, and it may facilitate ecosystem services such as biological control. However, these outcomes are not universal. To improve our understanding of how organic agriculture affects diversity and biological control a food-web approach is useful.

This project investigates how organic agriculture influences natural enemy diversity, food-web structure, and biological control. Aphid-predator-alternative prey food webs and biocontrol services are studied in organic and conventional cereal crops at different times of the season. Molecular gut content analysis is used to estimate the strength of interactions between different predator and prey taxa, the abundance of predator and prey is measured, and biocontrol efficacy estimated by excluding predators with cages. The strength of aphid, alternative prey and intraguild predation is compared between organic and conventional farms, and network analyses will be conducted to compare food web metrics such as evenness in interaction strength and connectance. We then use manipulative field cage experiments to test specific hypotheses informed by the field survey. These experiments will explore how predator diversity, availability of alternative prey and weeds influence biological control. Using the knowledge gained in this project we will be able to develop guidelines on how to improve biological control of insect pests in organic systems.

Contact: Mattias Jonsson and Eve Roubinet
Link: webpage under construction


The importance of landscape and local structure for pest management in coffee and maize

This project brings together participants from a large area of East Africa. Through this project cooperation and collaboration between SLU, Makerere University in Uganda, ICIPE (an international institute that specialises in insect research), and the Vi-skogen project in East Africa will be strengthened. The overall aim of the project is to contribute to improved livelihoods for smallholder farmers in East Africa through development of sustainable agricultural production systems.

We will explore the importance of landscape context and management options for enhancing productivity and resilience under an increasingly variable climate. Our focus will be on the study of mechanisms that enhance biological diversity and show potential for improving biological control of insect pests. We will explore the relationships between agricultural land-use at different scales, the structure, diversity and variability of natural enemy-pest relationships and the value of biological control. Our study system will include maize and coffee cropping systems. Using these two crops the possibility of combing a tree crop with an annual field crop in an agroforestry system can be explored. This research should lead to a more secure production system as measures to prevent pest attack and damage will form the foundation of the system. Reactive measures such as insecticide use would then very seldom have to be used. Production will not only be higher, but more sustainable.

Contact: Barbara Ekbom and Mattias Jonsson



Pollinator community shifts and plant-pollinator interactions in a changing climate

Many plant and animal species are shifting their distributions in response to climate change, but the speed of these shifts differ among species with unknown consequences for future community composition, species interactions, and ecosystem functions. We study changes in bumblebee community composition and plant-pollinator species interactions as a result of climate change, using a combination of empirical field studies along climatic gradients and species distribution models. The project aims at increasing our understanding of how the ongoing climate change can alter community composition, species interactions, and pollination.

Contact: Erik Öckinger


Spatial population dynamics at climatic range margins

Both habitat fragmentation and climate change are major drivers behind biodiversity loss. We can gain insight in their relative importance in influencing species’ distributions and population dynamics by studying population processes in human-dominated landscapes at the margin of a species’ range. We combine detailed studies of habitat and micro-climatic requirements with large-scale habitat mapping and monitoring of population dynamics using the butterfly Pyrgus armoricanus as a model species. The aim is to predict the probability of future population persistence and potential range expansion.

Contact: Erik Öckinger


Trap crops and physical separation of carrot fields as
environmental sound control strategies for the carrot psyllid

Carrot is the most important vegetable grown in Sweden. The carrot
psyllid is a serious pest on carrots in the Scandinavia that sucks nutrients from the leaves of the carrots. Damage leads to poor development and inferior quality. In conventional fatms the carrot psyllids are controlled with repeated sprayings with pesticides. The aim with this project is to develop a sustainable cropping system
that relies on the combination of trap crop and choice of cultivar. The trap crop will either be separated from the main crop in space or time and will attract the carot psyllid away from the main crop. The pest in the trap crop will be destructed by mechanical operations by removing the crop. In addition, we will also study the effects of physical separation of the carrot fields away from the carot psyllids overwintering sites and determine the distances needed to make this a successful strategy. The experiments will be carried out in collaboration with farmers, advisors and scientists.

Contact: Ulf Nilsson


LIBERATION - Linking farmland biodiversity to ecosystem services for effective ecofunctional intensification

With funding from EU FP7 we will identify general relationships between
semi-natural habitats, on-farm management and biodiversity, link
farmland biodiversity to ecosystem services, examine different
strategies to mitigate ecosystem services, quantify the impact of
ecosystem services on crop yield, quantify the socio-economic
implications of ecological intensification, evaluate the contribution of
ecosystem services at different land-use scenario’s and demonstrate our
findings and disseminate them to a wide range of stakeholders.

Contact: Riccardo Bommarco