Fine-scale heterogeneity in beetle assemblages under co-occurring Eucalyptus in the same subgenus


Correspondence: Philip S. Barton, Fenner School of Environment and Society, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia.


Aim  Insect biodiversity is often positively associated with habitat heterogeneity. However, this relationship depends on spatial scale, with most studies focused on differences between habitats at large scales with a variety of forest tree species. We examined fine-scale heterogeneity in ground-dwelling beetle assemblages under co-occurring trees in the same subgenus: Eucalyptus melliodora A. Cunn. ex Schauer and E. blakelyi Maiden (Myrtaceae).

Location  Critically endangered grassy woodland near Canberra, south-eastern Australia.

Methods  We used pitfall traps and Tullgren funnels to sample ground-dwelling beetles from the litter environment under 47 trees, and examined differences in diversity and composition at spatial scales ranging from 100 to 1000 m.

Results  Beetle assemblages under the two tree species had distinctive differences in diversity and composition. We found that E. melliodora supported a higher richness and abundance of beetles, but had higher compositional similarity among samples. In contrast, E. blakelyi had a lower abundance and species richness of beetles, but more variability in species composition among samples.

Main conclusions  Our study shows that heterogeneity in litter habitat under co-occurring and closely related eucalypt species can influence beetle assemblages at spatial scales of just hundreds of metres. The differential contribution to fine-scale alpha and beta diversity by each eucalypt can be exploited for conservation purposes by ensuring an appropriate mix of the two species in the temperate woodlands where they co-occur. This would help not only to maximize biodiversity at landscape scales, but also to maintain heterogeneity in species richness, trophic function and biomass at fine spatial scales.