• Characterization of plant, leafhopper, and spider communities in perimeter plantings and vineyards in the Niagara region

      Hughes, Margaret Moira; Department of Biological Sciences
      Vineyards are large agroecosystems associated with high external inputs and intervention leading to local decreases in biodiversity. With trends towards sustainable agriculture, there is a push to maximize natural ecosystem functions through methods of on-farm diversification, such as perimeter plantings. Increased plant diversity has been found to increase the ability to exploit natural ecosystem functions such as pest management, through the bottom-up control of species richness displayed by increased plant species richness. The aim of this thesis was to investigate the effect of perimeter plantings on vineyard plant and invertebrate communities. I hypothesized that perimeter plantings would have greater plant diversity and habitat complexity than vineyard interiors. Perimeter plantings would also support increased assemblages of natural enemies with decreased pest populations when compared to the vineyards. Plant communities in the perimeter plantings and the vineyards were first surveyed using transects within the perimeters and perpendicular transects from the perimeters towards the interior of the vineyards. Invertebrate communities were also surveyed within the perimeter plantings and adjacent vineyards, focusing on leafhoppers and spiders. Seven commercially operating vineyards throughout the Niagara region were surveyed both within the perimeter planting and adjacent vineyard during the 2018-growing season. It was found that perimeter plantings not only had increased plant species richness and functional diversity, but the species and functional composition within the perimeters differed from vineyard interiors. This indicated that perimeter plantings did not increase weed pressure but allowed for increased habitat complexity adjacent to the vineyards. Leafhoppers showed significantly higher abundance in vineyard interiors than perimeter plantings, and as distance from perimeter planting increased, leafhopper abundances also increased. Spiders were more abundant in perimeter plantings, decreasing in abundance with distance from perimeter. Overall, the results suggest that perimeter plantings have the ability to support biological pest control, while not increasing both weed or pest pressure observed within vineyards.