ANTOPTIC (SAVE / BioGeCo)
Future agriculture will need to better balance productivity with minimising negative impacts on health and biodiversity. The use of agrochemicals will have to be reduced by favouring the biological control of pests and pathogens, a key ecosystem service provided by predators and parasites. There is now a large body of evidence suggesting that organic farming and semi-natural habitats increase species richness and abundance of natural enemies in agricultural landscapes. Organic farming and diversified landscapes might be the key to successful biological control. However, we currently lack of a mechanistic understanding of the relationship between predator community structure and the level of pest control in agricultural landscapes. The ANTOPTIC project therefore aims at understanding (i) how organic farming and semi-natural habitats affect the structure of trophic networks in agricultural landscapes and (ii) how the structure of such trophic networks impacts the provision of natural pest regulation. The project will build upon a large survey of arthropods performed in 2015 on a hierarchical multi-scale experimental design, involving 42 vineyards along two gradients of forest cover and farming practices, and a DNA library tailored to the local fauna. Starting from DNA sequences produced by predator gut-content amplifications, we will reconstruct predator-prey interactions, and analyse how organic farming and landscape context affect the properties of these trophic networks. Our approach combining theoretical models with statistical analyses of the reconstructed networks will shed light on the mechanisms most likely to drive the relationships between network structure and the level of natural pest control. ANTOPTIC is therefore a broad, interdisciplinary project that ranges from molecular biology to functional ecology and agroecology. In addition to high-impact academic publications in food web ecology, it will provide relevant information for practitioners and policy-makers to guide the development of nature-based farming practices and, eventually, help reducing the use of pesticides in agricultural landscapes.