Enhancing gardens as habitats for soil-surface-active invertebrates: should we plant native or exotic species?

Abstract

Domestic gardens provide valuable ecosystem services including supporting biodiversity. These gardens typically consist of a mixture of native and non-native plants yet the relative value of these plants for invertebrates is largely unknown. To address this a replicated field experiment was established with plots planted with one of three assemblages of non-invasive perennial and shrubby garden plants (treatments), based on plant origin [British native, near-native (Northern Hemisphere) and exotic (Southern Hemisphere)]. Over 4 years soil-surface-active invertebrates were recorded by pitfall trap and canopy cover measured. The abundance of soil-surface-active invertebrates increased with canopy cover. Abundance was higher on the native treatment, but there were seasonal differences, with proportionately more invertebrates found on the exotic plots during the winter. Invertebrate herbivores, parasitoids and the Carabidae gave similar results to total abundance. Omnivores were most abundant on the near-native treatment and detritivores showed no difference between treatments. The abundance of the Araneae increased as canopy cover decreased. Analysis of diversity for groups meeting minimum data requirements indicated that abundance measures gave a good representation of diversity. The experiment demonstrated that gardens and other cultivated ornamental plantings support a wide range of soil-surface-active invertebrates regardless of the plants’ origin and the more plant matter (canopy cover) available the greater the abundance. More invertebrates will be supported by gardens and cultivated planting schemes that offer dense year-round vegetation cover combined with plantings biased towards native and near-native plants. Some areas of low vegetation cover will however, support some groups such as the Araneae.

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Data accessibility

Soil-surface-active invertebrate data is available in Online Resource 3.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the project volunteers James Backshall, Crystal Duncan, Carolyn Hewitt, Helen Latham, Linda Moyes, Judi O’Prey, John Ricketts, Kathy Stones and Jenna Watt who maintained the plots and the members of RHS Wisley curatorial staff who assisted. Thanks are also due to those who provided help and advice including Jonty Denton, David Brooks, Suzanne Clark, Colin Crosbie, Victoria Coupland, Jim Gardiner, Gerard Clover, Alistair Griffiths, Andrew Halstead, Alison Haughton and Steve Head (the Wildlife Gardening Forum), David Notton, Juliet Osborne, Claire Ozanne, Laura Robins, Peter Shaw, Richard Sanford, Ian Waghorn and Roger Williams.

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Correspondence to Andrew Salisbury.

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This article belongs to the Topical Collection: Urban biodiversity.

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Salisbury, A., Al-Beidh, S., Armitage, J. et al. Enhancing gardens as habitats for soil-surface-active invertebrates: should we plant native or exotic species?. Biodivers Conserv 29, 129–151 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-019-01874-w

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Keywords

  • Canopy cover
  • Carabidae
  • Functional group
  • Gardens
  • Invertebrate abundance
  • Invertebrate diversity
  • Invertebrate herbivore
  • Invertebrate predator
  • Ornamental plants