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Genista dwarf shrubs as key structures for a Mediterranean grasshopper species on alluvial gravel banks

Abstract

Natural floodplains belong to the most species-rich ecosystems worldwide. However, over the last decades there has been a strong decrease in the extent of natural floodplains. As a consequence, the biodiversity of these ecosystems has experienced a dramatic decline. In this study, we investigated the habitat and food preferences of the grasshopper species Chorthippus binotatus on gravel banks of a nearly natural river system in the Spanish Pyrenees. The studied plots on the alluvial gravel banks in the Spanish Pyrenees were characterised by strong differences in habitat structure. However, C. binotatus only occurred in sparsely-vegetated sub-Mediterranean dry grasslands. The abundance of the grasshopper species was also strongly related to habitat structure and cover of the main food source and dominant plant species of these open grasslands, the dwarf shrub Genista scorpius. Concerning habitat structure, the grasshopper species preferred habitats with sparse and low-growing vegetation with a high cover of bare ground and gravel/stones. C. binotatus occupies a very narrow ecological niche within the studied floodplain. It requires sparsely-vegetated gravel banks that ensure sufficient oviposition sites and a favourable ambient temperature for optimal development. G. scorpius dwarf shrubs have to be considered as multi-functional key elements in the habitats of C. binotatus. They offer high-quality food, shelter against predators and allow thermoregulation in a hot and dry Mediterranean environment. For the conservation of C. binotatus, we recommend maintaining and restoring both natural floodplain dynamics as well as traditional grazing systems.

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Correspondence to Franz Löffler.

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Löffler, F., Poniatowski, D. & Fartmann, T. Genista dwarf shrubs as key structures for a Mediterranean grasshopper species on alluvial gravel banks. J Insect Conserv 20, 781–788 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-016-9909-3

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10841-016-9909-3

Keywords

  • Chorthippus
  • Disturbance
  • Dynamic habitat
  • Food specialisation
  • Land-use change
  • Orthoptera