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ECN data reveal declines in ground beetle abundance

Scientists at Rothamsted Research, working with the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, and a range of other partners contributing to the Environmental Change Network, have found significant declines in the abundance of ground (carabid) beetles at sites across the UK and have suggested that localised land management can help offset this decline.
ECN data reveal declines in ground beetle abundance

Carabus problematicus: the authors found that numbers of this species had declined at some sites and increased at others. [Photo © Roy Anderson]

In a paper published in the Journal of Applied Ecology, the researchers show how an overall decline in carabid beetle abundance was found at sites across the UK, but with inconsistencies in the trends between regions and habitats. The authors suggest this highlights the potential of localised land management in offsetting adverse effects of wider scale environmental change.

The scientists monitored beetle populations at a national scale over fifteen years in the UK Environmental Change Network. They found declines in the overall abundance of ground beetles that are comparable to those reported for butterflies and moths. But they also found that declines were not consistent across UK regions and habitats, being at their worst at sites studied on mountains, in upland moorland in the north and in pasture in the west. Conversely, populations sampled from woodland and hedgerow habitats remained stable, and increased at a downland site.

David Brooks of Rothamsted Research, who receive strategic funding from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), said “Carabid beetles contribute to the viability and health of ecosystems. They are particularly important in agriculture because they help control pests and weeds”.

Further research will be required to discover how management of these habitats may offset adverse, wider-scale changes in climate or the environment. In particular, retaining woodland and hedgerows in the landscape, and managing them in appropriate ways, may help to conserve beetles undergoing adverse changes in their wider environment.

Brooks has warned that “these rather alarming trends in carabid beetle decline do contribute to growing evidence that insects are undergoing serious losses”.


[Text adapted from Rothamsted Research news article]

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