Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 1049–1061 | Cite as

Effects of experimentally planting non-crop flowers into cabbage fields on the abundance and diversity of predators

  • Nadine Ditner
  • Oliver Balmer
  • Jan Beck
  • Theo Blick
  • Peter Nagel
  • Henryk Luka
Original Paper


Flowery field margins and intersowing of crops with flowers are used as management practices to promote arthropod biodiversity as well as biocontrol agents. Positive effects of enhancement (in abundance and species richness) of hymenopteran parasitoids on control of Lepidoptera pests have previously been demonstrated. However, effects on predatory arthropods, which may also serve as pest control agents, remain unclear. In an experimental study in cabbage fields we tested how sown flower strips on field margins and intersowing with cornflower affected the species richness, abundance and community composition of ground beetles and spiders. Furthermore, we investigated whether effects of flower margins are dependent on the distance from the field margins. We found that field margins generally harboured higher species richness, whereas effects on abundance were weaker. Intersown cornflower had positive effects on spider and ground beetle abundance, but affected species richness only weakly. Our results do not provide evidence for effects of distance from the flowery field margins on predator richness or abundance. Species composition was strongly affected by the habitat management actions. We conclude that habitat management practices like flower strips on field margins and intersowing with flowers, which are primarily added to attract and enhance parasitoids for pest control, also benefit biodiversity conservation in spiders and ground beetles. They also positively affect the abundance of these primarily predatory taxa, which adds to the biocontrol potential of non-crop flowering plants.


Araneae Carabidae Companion plants Flower strips Habitat management Organic farming Pest control 



We thank all farmers and Rathgeb’s Bioprodukte (Unterstammheim, Switzerland) for making their fields available, Lukas Pfiffner (Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) for discussions on experimental design, Nadja Haefeli, Bettina Weishaupt and Sebastian Moos for help with field and lab work, and Andreas Schötzau for statistical support. Werner Marggi (Natural History Museum Bern) helped with taxonomic identification of some Carabidae and Heiner Lenzin (University of Basel) with botany. The project was financially supported by the Bristol Foundation, the Federal Office for the Environment (BAFU), the Parrotia-Foundation, the Werner Steiger Foundation, the Ernst Göhner Foundation, the Singenberg Foundation, the Spendenstiftung Bank Vontobel, Schöni Swissfresh AG and the Stiftung zur internationalen Erhaltung der Pflanzenvielfalt.

Supplementary material

10531_2013_469_MOESM1_ESM.txt (501 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (TXT 500 kb)
10531_2013_469_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (127 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 126 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nadine Ditner
    • 1
    • 2
  • Oliver Balmer
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jan Beck
    • 2
  • Theo Blick
    • 4
    • 5
  • Peter Nagel
    • 2
  • Henryk Luka
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Plant Protection and BiodiversityResearch Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL)FrickSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Sciences (Biogeography)University of BaselBaselSwitzerland
  3. 3.Swiss Tropical and Public Health InstituteBaselSwitzerland
  4. 4.Callistus—Gemeinschaft für Zoologische & Ökologische UntersuchungenHummeltalGermany
  5. 5.Senckenberg, Forschungsinstitut und Naturmuseum, Hessische NaturwaldreservateFrankfurt am MainGermany

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