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Agroecosystems are often complex ecosystems with diverse food webs. Changes in food web complexity may have important context-dependent consequences for pest control strategies. The success of predator introductions to suppress pests may depend on the diversity of pests. For crops with diverse pest assemblages, it is hypothesized that diverse predator communities are needed to suppress diverse pest assemblages below damaging levels. In this study, we compare the ability of ant predator monocultures and polycultures to suppress single- and diverse- (three species) pest assemblages in a coffee foodweb. We use a factorial experiment that compared treatments of predator and pest diversity to understand the impact of pest diversity on multiple predator effects. We show that predator polycultures enhanced pest risk relative to predator monocultures significantly more in the diverse-pest treatment relative to in the single-pest treatments for two of three pest species. Further, we show that pest diversity significantly reduced pest risk in all predator treatments except for the predator polyculture treatment. These results suggest that pest diversity may reduce the efficiency of single predator species at suppressing pest damage, but do not limit multiple predator species. This in turn leads to stronger effects of predator diversity with greater pest diversity. These results highlight the need to consider foodweb complexity, such as pest diversity, when designing and implementing biology control programs.
This is a preprint submission to PeerJ. This is the initial version of this manuscript.