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Grassland invertebrate assemblages in managed landscapes: Effect of host plant and microhabitat architecture


*Present address: CRC for Australian Weed Management, CSIRO Entomology, PO Box 1700, Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia (Email:


Abstract  Grasslands are often considered as two-dimensional habitats rather than complex, multilayered habitats. However, native grasslands are complex habitats, with multiple layers of annual and perennial grasses, sedges, shrubs and mosses. Vegetation complexity, including plant type, quality and three-dimensional structure is important for providing a variety of food and habitat resources for insects. Grazing by domestic livestock can affect these processes through the loss or fragmentation of habitats, as well as altering the vertical and horizontal vegetation structure. This study aimed to investigate the role of host plants and microhabitat architecture for determining foliage invertebrate assemblages. Different plant species supported distinct invertebrate assemblages and less complex host plants supported fewer invertebrate individuals and species. Manipulations of plant architecture changed the species composition of invertebrates, with most species found in more complex vegetation. This study illustrates the importance of host diversity and pasture complexity for invertebrate communities. Management practices that encourage a heterogeneous environment with diverse and structurally complex pastures should also sustain a more diverse and functional invertebrate assemblage.