Large carabid beetle declines in a United Kingdom monitoring network increases evidence for a widespread loss in insect biodiversity
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- Carabid beetles are important functional components of many terrestrial ecosystems. Here, we describe the first long-term, wide-scale and quantitative assessment of temporal changes in UK carabid communities, to inform nationwide management aimed at their conservation.
- Multivariate and mixed models were used to assess temporal trends over a 15-year period, across eleven sites in the UK Environmental Change Network. Sites covered pasture, field margins, chalk downland, woodland and hedgerows in the lowlands, moorland and pasture in the uplands, and grassland, heaths and bogs in montane locations.
- We found substantial overall declines in carabid biodiversity. Three-quarters of the species studied declined, half of which were estimated to be undergoing population reductions of > 30%, when averaged over 10-year periods. Declines of this magnitude are recognized to be of conservation concern. They are comparable to those reported for butterflies and moths and increase the evidence base showing that insects are undergoing serious and widespread biodiversity losses.
- Overall trends masked differences between regions and habitats. Carabid population declines (10-year trend, averaged across species) were estimated to be 52% in montane sites, 31% in northern moorland sites and 28% in western pasture sites (with at least 80% of species declining in each case). Conversely, populations in our southern downland site had 10-year increases of 48% on average. Overall, biodiversity was maintained in upland pasture, and populations were mostly stable in woodland and hedgerow sites.
- Synthesis and applications. Our results highlight the need to assess trends for carabids, and probably other widespread and ubiquitous taxa, across regions and habitats to fully understand losses in biodiversity. Land management should be underpinned by a consideration of how wide-scale environmental drivers interact with habitat structure. The stability of population trends in woodlands and hedgerows of species that are declining elsewhere puts these habitats at the fore-front of integrated landscape management aimed at preserving their ecosystem services.