Effects of different management regimes on aquatic macroinvertebrate diversity in Australian rice fields
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The maintenance of invertebrate diversity within agricultural environments can enhance a number of agronomically important processes, such as nutrient cycling and biological pest control. However, few Australian studies have been undertaken which specifically address the effects of commercial management regimes on rice field biodiversity. In this study, we compared aquatic macroinvertebrate communities within Australian rice fields cultivated under three commercial management regimes: conventional-aerial (agrochemicals applied, aerially sown), conventional-drill (agrochemicals applied, directly drill-sown) and organic-drill (agrochemical-free, directly drill-sown). These comparisons were undertaken using a combination of community assessment approaches, including morphospecies richness, abundance, diversity and community composition. In general, greater biodiversity existed within macroinvertebrate communities that developed under organic management regimes than under conventional regimes (i.e., higher morphospecies richness and Shannon diversity). Although there were significant differences in several parameters across management regimes early in the rice-growing season, as the growing season progressed the invertebrate communities that developed in the different management regimes became more similar. Only community composition analyses showed significant differences late in the growing season, with functional differences across aquatic faunal assemblages suggested by increased predator abundance in communities sampled from the organic management regime. In order to improve biodiversity within these aquatic environments, management techniques need to be examined individually and the most disruptive processes identified. Alternative management procedures can then be developed that minimise biodiversity loss whilst still delivering required agronomic outcomes.
KeywordsBiodiversity Community composition Organic agriculture
Financial support for this work has been provided by Charles Sturt University, the Cooperative Research Centre for Sustainable Rice Production and an Australian Postgraduate Award (A.W.).
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