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28-02-2018 | Original Paper | Issue 9/2018

Biodiversity and Conservation 9/2018

Dynamic effects of ground-layer plant communities on beetles in a fragmented farming landscape

Journal:
Biodiversity and Conservation > Issue 9/2018
Authors:
Katherina Ng, Sue McIntyre, Sarina Macfadyen, Philip S. Barton, Don A. Driscoll, David B. Lindenmayer
Important notes
Communicated by David Hawksworth.

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s10531-018-1526-x) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.

Abstract

Vegetation effects on arthropods are well recognized, but it is unclear how different vegetation attributes might influence arthropod assemblages across mixed-agricultural landscapes. Understanding how plant communities influence arthropods under different habitat and seasonal contexts can identify vegetation management options for arthropod biodiversity. We examined relationships between vegetation structure, plant species richness and plant species composition, and the diversity and composition of beetles in different habitats and time periods. We asked: (1) What is the relative importance of plant species richness, vegetation structure and plant composition in explaining beetle species richness, activity-density and composition? (2) How do plant-beetle relationships vary between different habitats over time? We sampled beetles using pitfall traps and surveyed vegetation in three habitats (woodland, farmland, their edges) during peak crop growth in spring and post-harvest in summer. Plant composition better predicted beetle composition than vegetation structure. Both plant richness and vegetation structure significantly and positively affected beetle activity-density. The influence of all vegetation attributes often varied in strength and direction between habitats and seasons for all trophic groups. The variable nature of plant-beetle relationships suggests that vegetation management could be targeted at specific habitats and time periods to maximize positive outcomes for beetle diversity. In particular, management that promotes plant richness at edges, and promotes herbaceous cover during summer, can support beetle diversity. Conserving ground cover in all habitats may improve activity-density of all beetle trophic groups. The impacts of existing weed control strategies in Australian crop margins on arthropod biodiversity require further study.

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