, Volume 15, Issue 4, pp 573-590
Date: 26 Oct 2010

The value of semi-natural grasslands for the conservation of carabid beetles in long-term managed forested landscapes

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Species rich semi-natural grasslands are disappearing across Europe, affecting invertebrate diversity negatively. In NW Spain, the recent abandonment of traditional farming practices and the gradual decrease in grazing pressures are reducing the number and extent of montane grasslands. In this context, we investigated the composition of carabid beetle (Coleoptera, Carabidae) assemblages that inhabit semi-natural grasslands situated in long-term managed oak and beech forested landscapes. According to their spatial arrangement, the studied grasslands were classified into: (1) interior or gap grasslands (small and completely surrounded by continuous forest) and (2) exterior grasslands (large and connected to a variety of habitat types). Our results indicate that, within each forested landscape, the gap and exterior grasslands harboured particular carabid assemblages (i.e. exclusive or abundantly collected species), which were also distinct from the surrounding forest carabid fauna. Dissimilarities between gap and exterior grasslands in each landscape suggest great carabid diversity at the regional scale. We also detected species-specific responses as several carabids were mainly associated with gap or exterior grasslands. Consequently, in highly modified forested landscapes, semi-natural grassland remnants may constitute great value for the protection of the carabid fauna. Specifically, we recommend conservation strategies that preserve variety in grassland features and maintain proper management activities to prevent the loss of specialised species and a decrease in regional carabid diversity.