Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 14, Issue 3, pp 289–296 | Cite as

Is pitfall trapping a valuable sampling method for grassland Orthoptera?

Original Paper


Common methods to assess diversity and abundance of Orthoptera are sweep netting, transect counts and box-quadrat sampling. Pitfall trapping, by contrast, is rarely used, and the value of this method is still being questioned. In 2008, we studied Orthoptera species richness and abundance in five vegetation types along a gradient of dune succession on the Baltic Sea island of Hiddensee (NE Germany) by comparing transect-count and pitfall-trapping data. Using transect counts, 12 species were detected in the study area. With pitfall traps, three chorto- and thamnobiont Ensifera species (C. dorsalis, M. roeselii and T. viridissima) were not caught at all, and it was only in low-growing and sparsely-vegetated grey dunes that all present species were detected. With pitfall traps, the proportion of present species recorded strongly declined with increasing height and density of the vegetation type. Assuming that transect counts are a good proxy for relative Orthoptera densities, densities ascertained by pitfall traps are strongly biased by vegetation structure and locomotive behaviour of the species. More than 80% of all individuals were caught in sparsely-vegetated grey dunes. Frequency patterns of the species also differed. Using pitfall traps, especially chortobiont species were significantly underrepresented. Qualitative and quantitative sampling of Orthoptera using pitfall traps seems only reasonable in habitats with low and sparse vegetation and a high proportion of geobiont species.


Heathland Sampling efficiency Vegetation structure Successional stage Transect count 



We would like to thank the national park “Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft” for the permission to conduct the study in the protected area. We are grateful to Dominik Poniatowski for critical comments on earlier versions of the manuscript and Jasmin Lendzion for her help with the fieldwork. The study was financially supported by the Bauer-Hollmann-Stiftung and is part of the research project “Biodiversity, Ecology and Management of Coastal Habitats of the Baltic Sea”.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jens Schirmel
    • 1
  • Sascha Buchholz
    • 2
  • Thomas Fartmann
    • 2
  1. 1.Biological Station Isle of HiddenseeUniversity of GreifswaldIsle of HiddenseeGermany
  2. 2.Department of Community Ecology, Institute of Landscape EcologyUniversity of MünsterMünsterGermany

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