, Volume 1, Issue 2, pp 197–205 | Cite as

Effect of Habitat Patch Characteristics on Abundance and Diversity of Insects in an Agricultural Landscape

  • Lenore  Fahrig
  • Ian  Jonsen


The objective of this study was to test for general effects of patch size, patch isolation, disturbance frequency, and patch life span, on density and diversity of organisms. We sampled predominantly herbivorous insects in 31 alfalfa fields that varied in size, isolation, frequency of disturbance by cutting, and age (number of years planted in alfalfa). Effects on insect relative density and diversity were examined at three taxonomic levels: all insects, eight separate orders, and six legume-specialist weevil species. We found that (a) more isolated alfalfa fields had higher overall insect richness, (b) fields with higher disturbance frequency had lower overall insect richness, and (c) fields of intermediate age had highest insect richness. In some cases these patterns were reflected at lower taxonomic levels, but in many cases they were not. These results are important because they indicate that, although we cannot simultaneously tailor a landscape for each of thousands of species, we may be able to produce desired effects at a more general level.

Key words: agro-ecosystem; patch size; resource concentration hypothesis; patch isolation; metapopulation; patch age; intermediate disturbance hypothesis; insect density; insect richness. 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lenore  Fahrig
    • 1
  • Ian  Jonsen
    • 2
  1. 1.Ottawa-Carleton Institute of Biology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1S 5B6 CA
  2. 2.Atlantic Cooperative Wildlife Ecology Research Network (ACWERN), Biology Department, Acadia University, Wolfville, Nova Scotia, Canada B0P 1X0 CA

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