Aim A better understanding of the processes driving local species richness and of the scales at which they operate is crucial for conserving biodiversity in cultivated landscapes. Local species richness may be controlled by ecological processes acting at larger spatial scales. Very little is known about the effect of landscape variables on soil biota. The aim of our study was to partly fill this gap by relating the local variation of surface-dwelling macroarthropod species richness to factors operating at the habitat scale (i.e. land use and habitat characteristics) and the landscape scale (i.e. composition of the surrounding matrix).
Location An agricultural landscape with a low-input farming system in Central Hesse, Germany.
Methods We focused on five taxa significantly differing in mobility and ecological requirements: ants, ground beetles, rove beetles, woodlice, and millipedes. Animals were caught with pitfall traps in fields of different land use (arable land, grassland, fallow land) and different habitat conditions (insolation, soil humidity). Composition of the surrounding landscape was analysed within a radius of 250 m around the fields.
Results Factors from both scales together explained a large amount of the local variation in species richness, but the explanatory strength of the factors differed significantly among taxa. Land use particularly affected ground beetles and woodlice, whereas ants and rove beetles were more strongly affected by habitat characteristics, namely by insolation and soil characteristics. Local species richness of diplopods depended almost entirely on the surrounding landscape. In general, the composition of the neighbouring landscape had a lower impact on the species richness of most soil macroarthropod taxa than did land use and habitat characteristics.
Main conclusions We conclude that agri-environment schemes for the conservation of biodiversity in cultivated landscapes have to secure management for both habitat quality and heterogeneous landscape mosaics.