Evaluation of ecological infrastructures in the conservation and management of natural enemies as an alternative to pesticide use in the agricultural landscape of the Altea municipality (eastern Spain)
Abstract: We determined the functional biodiversity in a significant area of the agricultural landscape of the municipality of Altea (100 km south of Valencia, eastern Spain). The quality of the ecological infrastructures was analyzed following the methodology proposed by the IOBC (Ecological Infrastructures. Ideabook on Functional Biodiversity at the Farm Level). The local landscape is a network of small agricultural plots, predominantly citrus, sprinkled with low-density urban areas due to tourist pressure suffered by the Spanish Mediterranean coast in recent decades. Four parameters are evaluated in the group of selected plots: sustainability of the crop, biodiversity of trees and cover crops, the crop connectivity, and the structural diversity of the crop. The results show that the agrarian typology studied forms a diversified area, well connected to the landscape and to the ecological infrastructures present. It is concluded that the study area has a median level of biodiversity. Even so, the low diversification of crops, their compromised sustainability, and the lack of a diversified arboreal structure alternative to the crop, fail to provide an optimal habitat for the beneficial fauna. Correcting these aspects could improve the diversity of pest natural enemies, thus allowing to progress in a strategy of eliminating the use of pesticides in the area.