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Multi-trophic Interactions and Long-term Volunteer Collected Data: Networks of plant-caterpillar-parasitoid interactions across time, space, and a changing climate
AuthorSalcido, Danielle Marie
AdvisorDyer, Lee A.
Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology
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The preservation of ecological complexity is an important goal for ecologists as communities respond to global change. Inherent to these efforts is the quantification and evaluation of the multiple dimensions of biodiversity, including well studied metrics of taxonomic, phylogenetic, and functional diversity. Studies on multi-trophic systems have primarily focused on taxonomic diversity, yet recent efforts have highlighted the importance of examining an underutilized biodiversity metric: interaction diversity, or the richness and abundance of the unique links connecting species. My dissertation research contributes to understanding spatial and temporal variation in the diversity of plant-caterpillar-parasitoid interactions. A central theme of my dissertation research is the use of long-term citizen science data from sites across the Americas to understand how interaction diversity changes across latitudinal, climate, disturbance, and seasonal gradients. My research in tropical forests documented the impacts of climate change. I found increases in extreme precipitation events caused reductions in interaction and species diversity with associated losses in an important ecosystem function: Biological control of herbivores by their natural enemies. In a temperate fire-adapted forest, I provided evidence for the scale-dependent nature of interaction diversity and its implications for how diversity is maintained in frequently disturbed systems. To understand spatial and temporal variation in interactions, I evaluated patterns in the beta-diversity of interactions and its components. Using this methodology, I found evidence of latitudinal patterns in the turnover of interactions, providing support that interactions are more variable in tropical than temperate regions. In the Brazilian Cerrado and Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico, I found seasonal variation in interaction diversity is primarily a consequence of seasonally constant species rewiring their interactions rather than seasonal differences in species composition. Finally, an important goal for ecology is to develop effective methods that increase the public's awareness and action toward biodiversity conservation. I fielded over 300 citizen scientists on research expeditions that contribute to the collection and rearing of these long-term data and administered surveys to understand the impact of different team models. Based on these surveys, multiple team models are effective for achieving diverse objectives and corporate teams are particularly valuable for sustainability partnerships. Together, this body of research provides evidence that interaction diversity uniquely contributes to broad patterns of biodiversity and ecosystem structure. Further, novel partnerships with various citizen science team models are an effective and efficient method to engage a diverse public audience interested in the preservation of biodiversity.