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Keywords:

  • Araneae;
  • biodiversity;
  • farm management;
  • landscape complexity;
  • organic farming;
  • spatial ecology;
  • winter wheat

Summary

  • 1
    The distribution and abundance of animals are influenced by factors at both local and wider landscape scales. Natural enemies of pests in arable fields often immigrate from the surrounding landscape, and are also influenced by local management practices. Thus, landscape diversification and farming methods may both enhance farmland biodiversity, but their relative roles and possible interactions have been little explored.
  • 2
    The relationships of ground-dwelling spiders (Araneae) to landscape features and to organic agriculture were studied in 12 pairs of organic vs. conventional fields of winter wheat Triticum aestivum along a gradient of landscape complexity.
  • 3
    High percentages of non-crop habitats in the landscape increased local species richness of spiders from 12 to 20 species, irrespective of local management. This indicates that larger species pools are sustained in complex landscapes, where there is higher availability of refuge and overwintering habitats.
  • 4
    Organic agriculture did not increase the number of spider species, but enhanced spider density by 62%. Additionally, spider density was positively related to the percentage of non-crop habitats in the surrounding landscape, but only in conventional fields.
  • 5
    Synthesis and applications. The species richness of ground-dwelling spiders in crop fields was linked to large-scale landscape complexity, while spider densities responded to local management practices. Organic agriculture benefits farmland spiders and augments the numbers of predatory spiders, thereby contributing to pest control. However, measures to conserve species richness must also take landscape-scale factors into account. Complex landscapes including perennial non-crop habitats should be preserved or restored to achieve high levels of spider diversity.