, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 81-95
Date: 13 Aug 2009

Effects of vegetation structure and floristic diversity on detritivore, herbivore and predatory invertebrates within calcareous grasslands

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Abstract

Calcareous grasslands in Europe have shown wide scale declines in their extent and quality as a result of modern agricultural practices, increased atmospheric eutrophication and lack of management. In addition to being a key habitat for specialist plants, calcareous grasslands are also important for many threatened invertebrates. In this UK based study, we investigated the impact of military vehicle activity, floral species richness and vegetation structure on assemblages of detritivore, herbivore and predatory invertebrates. We also consider the impact that disturbance by military vehicle activity on the proportion of invertebrate species capable of flight, a surrogate for dispersal ability. Sward height was negatively correlated with detritivore, herbivore and predator species richness. Herbivores species richness was positively correlated with both forb and grass species richness. Spatial variation in the number of plant species was negatively correlated with herbivore species richness. Those sites most heavily disturbed by military vehicle activity supported the lowest proportions of flightless invertebrates. Successful management for calcareous grassland invertebrates should aim to maintain short swards with high floristic diversity, in terms of both the forbs and grasses. It should be noted, however, that these findings refer to principally surface rather than sward active invertebrates. While disturbance associated with military vehicle activity was not found to affect invertebrate species richness, it has negative consequences for the structure of invertebrate assemblages by selecting against invertebrates with low dispersal ability. To support invertebrate diversity in calcareous grasslands we emphasise the need for variety in the timing and type of management applied to promote heterogeneity in sward structure.