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Interspecific networks in ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) assemblages

This paper, published in a Special Issue of the journal Ecological Indicators to mark 20 years of data collection at ECN terrestrial sites, uses ECN carabid beetle data to build a Bayesian network of interspecific relationships, a potentially useful method for ecological analysis.
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© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.
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Pozsgai, G., Baird, J., Littlewood, NA., Pakeman, RJ. and Young, M. (2016). Interspecific networks in ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) assemblages. Ecological Indicators68, 134-141. DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2015.11.031.

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Although changes to interspecific relationships can significantly alter the composition of insect assemblages, they are often ignored when assessing impacts of environmental change. Long-term ground beetle data were used in this study to analyse ecological networks from three habitats at two sites in Scotland. A Bayesian Network inference algorithm was used to reveal interspecific relationships. The significance and strength of relationships between species (nodes) were estimated along with other network properties. Links were identified as positive relationships if co-occurrences of beetles correlated positively, and as negatives relationships if there was a negative correlation between the occurrences of the species. Most of the species had few links and only 10% of the nodes were connected with several links. Calathus fuscipes, a common carabid in the samples, was the most connected, with nine links to other species. More interspecific relationships were found to be positive than negative, with 48 and 23 links, respectively. The modular structure of the network was assessed and eight separate sub-networks were found. Habitat preferences of the species were clearly represented in the structure of the sets of those five sub-networks containing more than one species and were in line with the findings of the indicator species analysis. In our study, we showed that generated Bayesian networks can model interspecific relationships between carabid species. Due to the relative ease of the collection of field data and the high information content of the results, this method could be incorporated into everyday ecological analysis.