Assemblages of soil macrofauna across a Scottish land-use intensification gradient: influences of habitat quality, heterogeneity and area

Authors


Paul Eggleton, Soil Biodiversity Programme, of Entomology, The Natural History Museum, Cromwell Road, London SW7 5BD, UK (fax + 44 20 79425229; e-mail pe@nhm.ac.uk).

Summary

  • 1Land-use intensification strongly influences biodiversity by altering habitat heterogeneity, the distribution of habitat types and their extent. This study explores these effects within mixed semi-natural/agricultural mosaic habitats in Scotland, examining the effect of land-use intensification on the soil macrofauna at point (m2), landscape (km2) and regional (> 1 km2) scales.
  • 2The soil macrofauna in six 1-km2 sampling areas (land-use units; LUU) were sampled using a combined hand-sorting and Winkler bag extraction technique. Within each LUU, 16 1-m2 samples were taken in each of 2 successive years. Each LUU had a mixture of land-use types, representing an agricultural intensification gradient.
  • 3The following hypotheses were tested: (i) the study area sustains a number of distinct habitats as defined by soil macrofaunal composition; (ii) a greater number of restricted range species are found in semi-natural habitats; (iii) local (point) species density is related to habitat type; (iv) overall levels of species richness per habitat at regional scales are related to species-area effects; and (v) landscape-level species density is correlated with habitat heterogeneity.
  • 4Initial analysis revealed five distinct habitat types: Caledonian forest (semi-natural pine forest), closed canopy woodland (pine plantation and broadleaved woodland), riparian habitats (wet woodland and grassland), pasture (improved grassland) and arable (crop fields).
  • 5As hypothesized, the Caledonian habitat contained a greater number of restricted-range species than the other habitats. However, conifer plantations contained more restricted range species than expected, given their anthropogenic origin. Species density per m2 was most strongly affected by habitat type. At the regional level, the size of the species pool was correlated with the size of habitat areas. There were more species overall in LUU with greater habitat heterogeneity.
  • 6Synthesis and applications. Caledonian pine forests have high species densities and contain species of conservation value. Mixed conifer plantations also appear to have a surprisingly high invertebrate conservation value. In contrast, intensively managed agricultural habitats have low species densities and conservation value. Generally, mixed land-use areas have higher species densities than single land-use areas. This emphasizes the need for careful management of forest systems within the matrix of agricultural habitats to maximize landscape diversity.

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