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Influences of shrub vegetation on distribution and diversity of a ground beetle community in a Gobi desert ecosystem

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Abstract

In shrubland ecosystems, shrubs as ecosystem engineers play an important role in structuring ground beetle communities. However, the influence of shrub vegetation on the distribution and diversity of ground beetles remains unknown in Gobi desert, northwest China, where shrubland is a major biome type. Using Gobi shrubland dominated by shrub species Nitraria sphaerocarpa and Reaumuria soongorica as a model system, we sampled ground beetle communities using a pitfall trapping method under canopies of both shrubs and in intershrub bare areas during spring, summer and autumn corresponding to the main period of beetle activity. Simultaneously, physical environment of the three microhabitats and plant characteristics of both shrubs were measured. We determined whether shrubs and species identity influence ground beetle distribution and diversity patterns and whether the response of beetles to the presence and species of shrubs is consistent across species. At the community level, total beetle abundance and species richness were significantly greater under shrubs than in intershrub bare areas, whereas more beetles were captured under N. sphaerocarpa than under R. soongorica. At the population level, eight dominant beetle species responded differently to the presence and species of shrubs. The abundance of Anatolica sp., Carabus sp., Cyphogenia chinensis, Microdera sp. and Sternoplax setosa was consistently much greater under shrubs than in intershrub bare areas, whereas the abundance of Blaps gobiensis, Lethrus apterus and Pterocoma reitteri under shrubs was similar to that in intershrub bare areas. The shrub N. sphaerocarpa was commonly preferred by Anatolica sp., C. chinensis and S. setosa, whereas the shrub R. soongorica was commonly preferred by L. apterus, but the abundance of B. gobiensis, Carabus sp., Microdera sp. and P. reitteri was unaffected by shrub species. Differences in the abundance, species richness and composition of ground beetles among microhabitat types were largely related to among-microhabitat differences in the physical environment and resource availability. Our results suggest that shrubs and species identity play key roles in structuring ground beetle communities, but their influence differed between species. This study emphasizes the importance of protecting shrub habitats for the maintenances of beetle biodiversity in this Gobi desert ecosystem.

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Acknowledgments

We thank two anonymous referees for their useful comments and suggestions on the manuscript. We also thank all technicians for help with the field investigation. This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31170496 and 91025021) and by the National Science Foundation for Distinguished Young Scholars of China (41125002).

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Correspondence to Feng-Rui Li.

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See Fig. 6 and Table 3.

Fig. 6
figure 6

The physical environment (mean ± SE) of the three microhabitat types

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Liu, JL., Li, FR., Liu, CA. et al. Influences of shrub vegetation on distribution and diversity of a ground beetle community in a Gobi desert ecosystem. Biodivers Conserv 21, 2601–2619 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-012-0320-4

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