, Volume 135, Issue 1, pp 138–148 | Cite as

Species decline—but why? Explanations of carabid beetle (Coleoptera, Carabidae) declines in Europe

  • D. Johan KotzeEmail author
  • Robert B. O'Hara
Conservation Ecology


We investigated some of the causes of ground beetle decline using atlas data from Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands, countries in which natural environments have all but disappeared. We used ordinal regression to identify characteristics that are significantly correlated with the decline of carabid beetle species over the last 50–100 years, using a stepwise selection procedure to select the optimal model according to the Akaike Information Criterion. The results showed that large-bodied carabid populations have declined more than smaller ones, possibly because of their lower reproductive output and lower powers of dispersal. Habitat specialist populations (i.e. species with small niche breadths) have also decreased more than habitat generalist populations. Species with both long- and short-winged individuals have been less prone to decline than those that are exclusively either short-winged or long-winged. Dimorphic species may survive better in highly altered environments because long-winged individuals are good at dispersing between suitable habitats and short-winged individuals are good at surviving and reproducing in these newly colonised habitats. Finally, populations of large carabids associated with coastal, woodland or riparian habitat types were less prone to decline than populations of large carabids associated with various, open or grassland habitat types. The pattern is reversed for carabid species smaller than 8 mm in size. These results are explained in the context of habitat restoration and destruction in these highly modified western European countries.


Carabidae Extinction risk Western Europe Body size Specialisation 



We thank Hans Turin for making selected Dutch data sets available. Jari Niemelä, John Spence, Matti Koivula and two anonymous referees provided constructive criticism of an earlier draft of this paper.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Ecology and SystematicsDivision of Population BiologyUniversity of Helsinki
  2. 2.Rolf Nevanlinna InstituteP.O. Box 4

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