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Ground beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) as indicators of change and pattern in the agroecosystem: Longer surveys improve understanding

This paper, published in a Special Issue of the journal Ecological Indicators to mark 20 years of data collection at ECN terrestrial sites, concerns relationships between ground beetle (carabidae) population dynamics and changes in agricultural landscape structure, using data from two UK sites.
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Eyre, MD., McMillan, SD. and Critchley, CNR. (2016). Ground beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) as indicators of change and pattern in the agroecosystem: Longer surveys improve understanding. Ecological Indicators68, 82-88. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.11.009.

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Investigations concerned with ground beetle (Carabidae) dynamics in the agroecosystem have generally been limited to relatively short time periods in one crop, commonly wheat, whilst other studies have concentrated on the influence of landscape structure and non-crop habitat on beetle activity, again usually in one crop. Results of a seven-year survey at Nafferton in northern England, with recording from all crops in an organic rotation and from three types of field boundary, indicated that the lack of field boundary management had the greatest influence on ground beetle activity/density in this particular agroecosystem. However, within the crop rotation, grass/clover limited activity/density compared with that in cereal, potato and bean crops and there were also differences within cereal crops. Data from a 17-year survey at Drayton Environmental Change Network (ECN) site in midland England indicate that previous understanding of ground beetle activity and distribution in intensively managed landscapes may have been limited by temporal constraints. At Drayton, changes in surrounding crop cover, with the introduction of willow coppice and reduced area of arable land and agricultural inputs, considerably influenced ground beetle activity/density and assemblages in non-crop habitat. Small, active species dominating the assemblage in the first few years of the Drayton survey were gradually replaced by larger, non-flying species, especially after all the willow coppice had been planted. In both surveys, activity/density of ground beetles was related to disturbance, affecting vegetation cover and structure, but at the field scale at Nafferton and at the farm scale at Drayton. Longer surveys in a variety of landscapes such as those by the United Kingdom Environmental Change Network are likely to improve understanding of activity, diversity and distribution of invertebrates, which are fundamental requirements if predators such as ground beetles are required for ecosystem service provision.