Neighbouring crop diversity mediates the effect of Bt cotton on insect community and leaf damage in fields

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Abstract or Summary

Effects of large-scale cultivation of transgenic crops on agricultural biodiversity remain unclear, particularly in the context of complex ecological interactions between transgenic crops and other organisms. Here we conducted a comprehensive survey to investigate the number of species, population abundance, community evenness and dominance of insects and weeds as well as leaf damage to weeds in Bt and non-Bt cotton fields at 27 sites across northern China. The role of neighbouring crop diversity around cotton fields in controlling insects and weeds in the cotton fields was also assessed. In addition, we conducted a 3-year field experiment to verify the results of the survey. Weed diversity in Bt and non-Bt cotton fields was similar, but the species number and diversity indices of insects are significantly decreased in Bt fields aligning with reduced leaf damage to broadleaf plant species including cotton as well as crops in neighbouring plots. The leaf damage to Bt and non-Bt cotton negatively associates with the diversity of neighbouring crops in cotton fields. Our study demonstrates the neighbouring crop diversity mediates the effects of Bt crops on agricultural diversity in complex interactions among transgenic crops, in-field weed and insect communities, and neighbouring crops.

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