Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 509–518 | Cite as

Conversion of savannah habitats to small-scale agriculture affects grasshopper communities at Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania

  • Jonas Kuppler
  • Julian Fricke
  • Claudia Hemp
  • Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter
  • Marcell K. Peters


About 20 % of the natural grasslands in Sub-Saharan Africa have been converted to cropland and 80 % of the converted area is managed by small-scale farmers. Despite the large contribution of small-scale subsistence farming to agricultural expansion in Sub-Saharan Africa only few studies investigated the effects on insect biodiversity. We studied the effects of the conversion of savannah to small-scale extensively managed ruderal areas and corn fields on grasshopper communities (Orthoptera: Caelifera). The study was conducted on the eastern slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania. Three plots per land use type were established and grasshoppers were repeatedly collected between September and December 2010 using standardized transect walk methods. In comparison to the natural savannah, cornfields exhibited lower numbers and densities of grasshopper species, while ruderal areas exhibited similar species richness. However, vegetation cover was the best predictor for species richness, with the number of grasshopper species nearly doubling from plots with scarce vegetation to those with a dense grass cover. The composition of grasshopper communities differed between land use types and vegetation cover, with habitat generalists being scarce. Therefore, the species richness of all land use types combined was considerably higher than the richness of single land use types. We found no rare or threatened species during sampling. Our study suggests that a mosaic agricultural landscape with areas of savannah and extensively managed ruderal areas may maintain a high biodiversity of grasshoppers. However, the effectiveness of such mosaics is strongly dependent on extensive farm management practises which retain significant amounts of grass cover throughout the year.


Biodiversity Land use change Habitat management Herbivores Orthoptera Tropical ecology 



We are grateful to the Tanzanian Commission for Science and Technology for allowing us to conduct research on grasshoppers. We thank A. Hemp for support during the field work and two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments on the manuscript. The study was made possible by a scholarship of the German Academic Exchange Service and by support of the German Science Foundation within the research unit “Kilimanjaro ecosystems under global change: linking biodiversity, biotic interactions and biogeochemical ecosystem processes” (FOR1246, SP 7;

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 136 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (PDF 70 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (PDF 49 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jonas Kuppler
    • 1
    • 2
  • Julian Fricke
    • 3
  • Claudia Hemp
    • 4
  • Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter
    • 4
  • Marcell K. Peters
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Biology, Institute of Sensory EcologyHeinrich-Heine-UniversityDüsseldorfGermany
  2. 2.Department of Ecology and EvolutionUniversity of SalzburgSalzburgAustria
  3. 3.State Museum of Natural History KarlsruheKarlsruheGermany
  4. 4.Department of Animal Ecology and Tropical Biology, BiocenterUniversity of WürzburgWürzburgGermany

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