Enhancing beetle and spider communities in agricultural grasslands: the roles of seed addition and habitat management

Woodcock, B.A.; Savage, J.; Bullock, J.M.; Nowakowski, M.; Orr, R.; Tallowin, J.R.B.; Pywell, R.F.. 2013 Enhancing beetle and spider communities in agricultural grasslands: the roles of seed addition and habitat management. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 167. 79-85.

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Over three years, a replicated block design was used to investigate the effects of seed mixtures (grasses only; grasses and legumes; grasses, legumes and non-legume forbs), establishment techniques and long term management on beetle and spider communities of grassland swards. We quantified trophic links between phytophagous beetles and their host plants to assess the effect of these seed mixtures and management practices on food web structure. When managed under low intensity cutting regimes the most diverse seed mixture supported the highest biomass of beetles and spiders (c. 3.6 kg ha−1). Species richness of predatory beetles, phytophagous beetles and spiders were all increased by the sowing of legumes, although the addition of other forbs tended to result in at most modest further increases in invertebrate species richness. Analysis of food web structure suggests that the number of host plants utilised by beetles was greatest within the most diverse seed mixtures, but that this declined rapidly after the establishment year. We demonstrate that by sowing cheap and simple seed mixtures agriculturally improved grasslands can be managed to support increased diversity of spiders and beetles. While seed mixtures do not necessarily need to be of the highest diversity to achieve these benefits, the inclusion of legumes does appear to be crucial. The lower costs of intermediate diversity seed mixtures increase appeal to farmers, increasing the likely uptake of these methodologies in voluntary agri-environment schemes.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
Programmes: CEH Topics & Objectives 2009 - 2012 > Biodiversity
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Pywell
ISSN: 0167-8809
Additional Keywords: agri-environment scheme, connectance, food webs, generality, improved grassland, legumes, vulnerability
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Date made live: 31 Oct 2013 16:16 +0 (UTC)

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