Contrasting beetle assemblage responses to cultivated farmlands and native woodlands in a dynamic agricultural landscape

Date: 20, Dec, 2017
Author(s):   Ng, K., Driscoll, D.A., Macfadyen, S., Barton, P.S., McIntyre, S., Lindenmayer, D.B.
Publisher: Ecosphere

There is an urgent need to identify ways of managing agricultural landscapes for biodiversity conservation without reducing food production. Farming practices that consider spatio‐temporal heterogeneity of farm fields may be a feasible alternative to large‐scale revegetation of farmlands for maintaining arthropod biodiversity and their important ecological function. We examined seasonal differences in beetle assemblages in woodland remnants and four adjoining farmland uses in a highly modified agricultural landscape in southeastern Australia. The farmland uses were crops, fallows, and two restoration treatments (fine woody debris applied over harvested crop fields, and restoration plantings). Unexpectedly, overall species richness was significantly lower in remnants than in adjacent farmlands. Remnants and farmlands supported significantly different assemblages, with a third of species found in both habitats. Abundance responses were taxon‐specific and influenced by interactions between land use and season. In particular, predator abundance was significantly higher in plantings and fallows during spring compared to summer. Detritivore abundance was significantly higher in the woody debris compared to the adjacent remnants. Herbivore abundance did not differ between remnants and farmlands over time. Complex responses provide strong support for a mosaic of land uses to effectively conserve different beetle groups. Species richness results suggest that further agricultural intensification, in farm fields and through the removal of remnant vegetation, risks reducing beetle diversity in this region. Maintaining farmland heterogeneity with a mix of low‐intensity land uses, such as conservation tillage, crop–fallow rotation, restoration plantings, and the novel application of fine woody debris over cultivated fields, may provide seasonal refuge and resources for beetles.