How landscape structure, land-use intensity and habitat diversity affect components of total arthropod diversity in agricultural landscapes


Frederik Hendrickx, Terrestrial Ecology Unit (TEREC), Department of Biology, Ghent University, K.L. Ledeganckstraat 35, 9000 Gent, Belgium (fax +31 9264 87 94; e-mail


  • 1Agricultural intensification poses a serious threat to biodiversity as a consequence of increased land-use intensity, decreased landscape heterogeneity and reduced habitat diversity. Although there is interest in the preservation of total species richness of an agricultural landscape (γ diversity), the effects of intensification have been assessed primarily by species richness at a local scale (α diversity). This ignores species richness between local communities (β diversity), which is an important component of total species richness.
  • 2In this study, measures of land-use intensity, landscape structure and habitat diversity were related to γ, α and β diversity of wild bees (Apoidea), carabid beetles (Carabidae), hoverflies (Syrphidae), true bugs (Heteroptera) and spiders (Araneae) within 16 local communities in 24 temperate European agricultural landscapes.
  • 3The total landscape species richness of all groups was most strongly affected by increased proximity of semi-natural habitat patches. Bees also decreased in landscapes with a high intensity of farmland management, demonstrating additive effects of both factors.
  • 4Separating total species diversity into components, the decrease in total species richness could be attributed primarily to a decrease in species diversity between local communities. Species richness of the local communities of all investigated groups decreased with increasing land-use intensity and, in the case of spiders, decreasing proximity of the semi-natural habitat patches.
  • 5The effect of increased habitat diversity appeared to be of secondary importance to total species richness but caused a shift in the relative contribution of α and β diversity towards the latter.
  • 6Synthesis and applications. This study demonstrates that the effects of agricultural change operate at a landscape level and that examining species diversity at a local level fails to explain the total species richness of an agricultural landscape. The coincidence of patterns of β diversity with those of γ diversity emphasizes that such information is of crucial importance for the implementation and evaluation of restoration programmes aiming to restore sustainable countryside diversity. As local extinction processes in highly fragmented landscapes shape biodiversity, priority should be given to the conservation of diverse agricultural landscape remnants in Europe.