, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 407-420

Diversity and guild structure of insect assemblages under grazing and exclusion regimes in a montane grassland from Central Argentina

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Abstract

The effects of grazing disturbance on insect communities were examined at a montane grassland in Central Argentina, by comparing two grazed sites differing in cattle load (heavy and continuous or moderate and discontinuous) and two cattle exclusions differing in age (7 and 19 years). Two aspects of insect diversity (taxonomic and guild structure) and two levels of taxonomic resolution (family and species) were considered. Four monthly samples were taken with a suction sampler in two 1 m2 areas at each site. Collected specimens were counted, identified to family (all insects) or species (Coleoptera) level, and allocated to trophic guilds. Abundance, richness, diversity and biomass of the insect assemblages had minimum values in the most intensely grazed habitat, which also differed from the other sites in terms of insect families and Coleoptera species composition. It also showed a distinct guild structure, with fewer secondary consumers, and chewers replacing suckers as the most abundant herbivore group. According to these observations, intense grazing in montane grasslands in Central Argentina could result in taxonomic and guild changes in the associated insect communities, but such effects would not be noticeable with less intensive use. Moreover, using family taxonomic level could be as or even more appropriate than species level in order to characterize insect communities in the studied habitats under varying disturbance regimes.