Arthropod-Plant Interactions

, Volume 6, Issue 1, pp 75–82 | Cite as

Arable weeds in organically managed wheat fields foster carabid beetles by resource- and structure-mediated effects

  • Eva Diehl
  • Volkmar Wolters
  • Klaus Birkhofer
Original Paper


Arable weeds in organically managed fields may foster arthropod generalist predators by the provision of shelter and favorable microclimate (structure-mediated effects) and the provision of additional animal and floral food resources (resource-mediated effects). In three organically managed winter wheat fields in Central Germany, we investigated the impact of weed removal and introduction of artificial weed-like structure on the activity density and species richness of carabid beetles with respect to trophic groups, microclimatic conditions, and densities of potential prey. Removal of weeds reduced both carabid activity density and species richness but did not affect trophic group composition. The decline in carabid activity density was dampened by the addition of artificial structure. Mean daily surface temperature and light intensity were significantly lower under weeds and artificial plants than under wheat plants alone. Weed removal reduced the abundance of leafhoppers and true bugs, but the response was inconsistent across fields. We conclude that the presence of arable weeds in organically managed wheat fields fosters carabid activity density and species richness via resource-mediated effects, such as a higher availability of weed-borne resources (e.g. seeds and pollen) and herbivorous prey. Structure-mediated effects (altering the microclimate) add to this positive effect. The presence of weeds in organically managed wheat fields enhances carabid activity density and diversity and needs to be integrated into future management strategies for natural enemy conservation.


Carabidae Organic farming Biodiversity Trophic interactions Habitat complexity Biological control 



We thank two anonymous referees for their helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We are very grateful to the farmers, the Mager family, for permitting us to conduct our experiments on their fields. Thanks are due to Sascha Behr, Sergej Sereda, Janine Groh, and Kerstin Birkhofer for their assistance with the fieldwork, Sabine Wamser and Dennis Baulechner for assistance with sample determination, and Chistine Tandler, Susanne Vesper, Sabine Rauch, and Martin Kröckel for technical support. This study was carried out within the BIOPLEX project (BIOLOG Europe) funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF).

Supplementary material

11829_2011_9153_MOESM1_ESM.doc (64 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 64 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Animal EcologyJustus Liebig UniversityGiessenGermany

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