Modelling plant canopies for biocontrol and biodiversity: insect movement, networks and lacunarity


  • D.J. Skirvin


Canopy structure has an important role to play in determining the searching patterns of predators of insect pests in crops. The connections between plants within the canopy are crucial in determining the ability of predators to move around the canopy. Virtual plant models provide an ideal method for providing a realistic background for modelling the movement of insects in plant canopies. Experimental simulations of the movement of the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis have shown that the time taken for the predator to locate the prey decreases as plants become more connected. However, the time to prey location is increased as the internal structure of the individual plants in increased. These two factors therefore have to trade off against each other to determine the optimal canopy structure for the quickest time to location of prey by predators. There is therefore a need to be able to characterize the structure of real canopies to examine how canopy structure influences the searching success of predators. In this paper we discuss potential methods for the characterization of plant canopies, using virtual plants as a tool to model the canopies, and the potential implications of characterizing plant canopies in relation to biological control and biodiversity.