Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 27, Issue 9, pp 2131–2153 | Cite as

Dynamic effects of ground-layer plant communities on beetles in a fragmented farming landscape

  • Katherina NgEmail author
  • Sue McIntyre
  • Sarina Macfadyen
  • Philip S. Barton
  • Don A. Driscoll
  • David B. Lindenmayer
Original Paper


Vegetation effects on arthropods are well recognized, but it is unclear how different vegetation attributes might influence arthropod assemblages across mixed-agricultural landscapes. Understanding how plant communities influence arthropods under different habitat and seasonal contexts can identify vegetation management options for arthropod biodiversity. We examined relationships between vegetation structure, plant species richness and plant species composition, and the diversity and composition of beetles in different habitats and time periods. We asked: (1) What is the relative importance of plant species richness, vegetation structure and plant composition in explaining beetle species richness, activity-density and composition? (2) How do plant-beetle relationships vary between different habitats over time? We sampled beetles using pitfall traps and surveyed vegetation in three habitats (woodland, farmland, their edges) during peak crop growth in spring and post-harvest in summer. Plant composition better predicted beetle composition than vegetation structure. Both plant richness and vegetation structure significantly and positively affected beetle activity-density. The influence of all vegetation attributes often varied in strength and direction between habitats and seasons for all trophic groups. The variable nature of plant-beetle relationships suggests that vegetation management could be targeted at specific habitats and time periods to maximize positive outcomes for beetle diversity. In particular, management that promotes plant richness at edges, and promotes herbaceous cover during summer, can support beetle diversity. Conserving ground cover in all habitats may improve activity-density of all beetle trophic groups. The impacts of existing weed control strategies in Australian crop margins on arthropod biodiversity require further study.


Coleoptera Natural enemies Plant–insect interactions Resource concentration hypothesis 



This work was supported by Central Tablelands Local Land Services (through Australian Government funding), Lake Cowal Foundation and Mount Mulga Pastoral Company. KN was supported by an Australian Government Research Training Program (RTP) scholarship. Thanks to landholders (the Day, Foy, Conlan, Hall, Lucas, Nowlan, Aylott, Grimm, Robinson, Crawford, Daley families) for property access. We thank volunteers (particularly Alicia Ng, Nicholas Shore, Margaret Ning, Mal Carnegie and Dimitrios Tsifakis) for fieldwork assistance; Daniel Martinez-Escobar lab assistance; Maldwyn John Evans, Kim Pullen, and Michael Nash for beetle identification; Margaret Ning, Mikla Lewis, David Albrecht, Rainer Rehwinker, Nicki Taws for plant identification; Wade Blanchard and Yong Ding Li for statistical advice.

Supplementary material

10531_2018_1526_MOESM1_ESM.docx (4.7 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 4845 kb)


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Fenner School of Environment and SocietyThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions, Fenner School of Environment and SocietyThe Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  3. 3.CSIROCanberraAustralia
  4. 4.Centre for Integrative EcologyDeakin University GeelongBurwoodAustralia

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