, Volume 22, Issue 10, pp 2167-2178
Date: 11 Nov 2012

The effects of grassland management and aspect on Orthoptera diversity and abundance: site conditions are as important as management

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Calcareous grasslands represent local hotspots of biodiversity in large parts of Central and Northern Europe. They support a great number of rare species which are adapted to these xerothermic habitats. Due to massive changes in land use, calcareous grasslands have become a rare habitat type and their conservation has been given a high priority in the habitats directive of the European Union. It is well known that grassland management may affect biodiversity substantially. However, the quality of calcareous grasslands is also influenced by abiotic conditions, such as aspect (i.e. sun exposure), which affects the local mesoclimate. We studied the combined effects of aspect and grassland management on Orthoptera diversity on 16 sites in Central Germany, in an unbalanced crossed design with three factors: aspect, management type and management intensity. For both response variables (diversity and abundance) we obtained a similar pattern. South-facing pastures maintained a greater diversity than north-facing pastures, but both had a greater diversity than extensively used meadows. Intensively used meadows maintained the lowest diversity and abundances. A multivariate analysis revealed that the abundance of rare Orthoptera species correlated with bare ground cover and forb cover, both of which were greatest at south-facing pastures. Our results suggest that grazing is a more suitable management for maintaining a high biodiversity in calcareous grasslands than mowing. Moreover, the mesoclimate (in this studied measured by its surrogate: aspect) is a crucial factor determining species richness and needs to be considered in reserve planning.