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Nested assemblages of Orthoptera species in the Netherlands: the importance of habitat features and life-history traits


*M.A. Schouten, Department of Environmental Sciences, Copernicus Institute for Sustainable Development and Innovation, Utrecht University, PO Box 80115, 3508 TC Utrecht, The Netherlands.


Aim  Species communities often exhibit nestedness, the species found in species-poor sites representing subsets of richer ones. In the Netherlands, where intensification of land use has led to severe fragmentation of nature, we examined the degree of nestedness in the distribution of Orthoptera species. An assessment was made of how environmental conditions and species life-history traits are related to this pattern, and how variation in sampling intensity across sites may influence the observed degree of nestedness.

Location  The analysis includes a total of 178 semi-natural sites in the Pleistocene sand region of the Netherlands.

Methods  A matrix recording the presence or absence of all Orthoptera species in each site was compiled using atlas data. Additionally, separate matrices were constructed for the species of suborders Ensifera and Caelifera. The degree of nestedness was measured using the binmatnest calculator. binmatnest uses an algorithm to sort the matrices to maximal nestedness. We used Spearman’s rank correlations to evaluate whether sites were sorted by area, isolation or habitat heterogeneity, and whether species were sorted by their dispersal ability, rate of development or degree of habitat specificity.

Results  We found the Orthoptera assemblages to be significantly nested. The rank correlation between site order and sampling intensity was high. The degree of nestedness was lower, but remained significant when under- and over-sampled sites were excluded from the analysis. Site order was strongly correlated with both size of sample site and number of habitat types per site. Rank correlations showed that species were probably ordered by variation in habitat specificity, rather than by variation in dispersal capacity or rate of development of the species.

Main conclusions  Variation in sampling intensity among sites had a strong impact on the observed degree of nestedness. Nestedness in habitats may underlie the observed nestedness within the Orthoptera assemblages. Habitat heterogeneity is closely related to site area, which suggests that several large sites should be preserved, rather than many small sites. Furthermore, the results corroborate a focus of nature conservation policy on sites where rare species occur, as long as the full spectrum of habitat conditions and underlying ecological processes is secured.

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