, Volume 9, Issue 7, pp 985-1005

Landscape heterogeneity in relation to variations in epigaeic beetle diversity of a Mediterranean ecosystem. Implications for conservation

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Abstract

Habitat heterogeneity is a determinant cause of biological diversity in natural ecosystems, and therefore its preservation should be a priority when planning conservation strategies. Sierra de Baza, in southern Spain, is a protected natural area in which biotopes of particular interest still remain, but extensive afforestation with pine species has been widespread in recent decades and, in some cases, continues. The aim of this paper is to test the role of habitat heterogeneity at the landscape scale in generating epigaeic beetle diversity in Sierra de Baza. After two-year-long cycles of sampling epigaeic beetles, differences in local diversity at nine sites, and differences in the pattern of species turnover between sites, have been measured. Local communities differed among sites, 74% of the species being scarce (less than 0.41% of total beetle abundance), and thus species replacement differed markedly between sites. Comparisons between habitat types showed that the planted pine forests support less diverse fauna. Our results identify habitat heterogeneity at the landscape scale as the main source of epigaeic beetle diversity at the landscape scale, practices such as extensive afforestation diminishing landscape heterogeneity and consequently local beetle diversity. Preservation of landscape heterogeneity should be encouraged for an adequate beetle biodiversity conservation.