The compositional and configurational heterogeneity of matrix habitats shape woodland carabid communities in wooded-agricultural landscapes
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Landscape heterogeneity (the composition and configuration of matrix habitats) plays a major role in shaping species communities in wooded-agricultural landscapes. However, few studies consider the influence of different types of semi-natural and linear habitats in the matrix, despite their known ecological value for biodiversity.
To investigate the importance of the composition and configuration of matrix habitats for woodland carabid communities and identify whether specific landscape features can help to maintain long-term populations in wooded-agricultural environments.
Carabids were sampled from woodlands in 36 tetrads of 4 km2 across southern Britain. Landscape heterogeneity including an innovative representation of linear habitats was quantified for each tetrad. Carabid community response was analysed using ordination methods combined with variation partitioning and additional response trait analyses.
Woodland carabid community response was trait-specific and better explained by simultaneously considering the composition and configuration of matrix habitats. Semi-natural and linear features provided significant refuge habitat and functional connectivity. Mature hedgerows were essential for slow-dispersing carabids in fragmented landscapes. Species commonly associated with heathland were correlated with inland water and woodland patches despite widespread heathland conversion to agricultural land, suggesting that species may persist for some decades when elements representative of the original habitat are retained following landscape modification.
Semi-natural and linear habitats have high biodiversity value. Landowners should identify features that can provide additional resources or functional connectivity for species relative to other habitat types in the landscape matrix. Agri-environment options should consider landscape heterogeneity to identify the most efficacious changes for biodiversity.
KeywordsCarabid communities Landscape heterogeneity Life-history traits Matrix habitats Variation partitioning Woodland
We are grateful to the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust for the funding provided, to landowners who granted us permission to access their land and to Chris Foster for help with fieldwork. Finally, thanks to Jonathan Bradley for his comments and corrections on the first draft of this manuscript.
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