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Cross-scale effects of land use on the functional composition of herbivorous insect communities

Abstract

Context

Insect herbivores comprise the majority of macroinvertebrate communities of temperate grasslands and act as drivers for important ecosystem functions. Landscape- and local-level land use may alter species pools and dispersal possibilities and act as local environmental filters, affecting insect trait composition.

Objectives

While environmental filtering by local land use has repeatedly been shown to affect insect community assembly, less is known about the role of land-use intensity at the landscape level. We studied the relative importance of both local- and landscape-level land use in shaping the functional diversity and composition as well as the functional β-diversity among herbivore communities.

Methods

We used abundance data of three main herbivorous insect groups from grasslands across three regions in Germany and combined it with data on nine morphometric traits related to functions such as dispersal abilities to analyse the effects of different land-use components on community assembly.

Results

Land use at both the local and landscape level affected the functional composition of insect communities. Some trait combinations were particularly sensitive to changes in management intensity, whereas others reacted strongly to the availability of suitable habitats in the surrounding area. Simultaneously, functional diversity was not affected by land use at either spatial level. However, increasing local management intensity reduced functional β-diversity.

Conclusions

We conclude that both local- and landscape-level land use shape the functional composition of insect communities. Our results highlight the importance of considering land use across multiple spatial scales to understand its effects on the functional integrity of herbivore communities in temperate grasslands.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the anonymous reviewer for the valuable and constructive comments on our paper. We are thankful to S. Radford for linguistic editing. We thank R. Achtziger, R. Heckmann, G. Köhler, G. Kunz, C. Morkel, F. Schmolke and O. Wiche for insect species identification, numerous students for field and laboratory assistance and D. Ambarli and S. Seibold for data preparation. We thank the Bavarian State Collection of Zoology, the Senckenberg Museum Dresden, A. Hilpert, G. Kunz and C. Pitteloud for providing specimens for morphometric measurements and S. Berendt, L. Höck, M. Pfitzer and E. Sackey for their help in taking those measurements. We are thankful to the managers of the three Exploratories, K. Wells, S. Renner, K. Reichel-Jung, S. Gockel, K. Wiesner, K. Lorenzen, A. Hemp and M. Gorke for their work in maintaining the plot and project infrastructure; S. Pfeiffer, M. Gleisberg and C. Fischer and for providing support through the central office; J. Nieschulze and M. Owonibi for managing the central data base; and M. Fischer, E. Linsenmair, D. Hessenmöller, D. Prati, I. Schöning, F. Buscot, E.-D. Schulze, and the late E. Kalko for their role in setting up the Biodiversity Exploratories project. This study was funded by the DFG Priority Program 1374 ‘Infrastructure-Biodiversity-Exploratories’ and the SNF (310030E−173542/1). Field work permits were issued by the responsible state environmental offices of Baden-Württemberg, Thüringen and Brandenburg (according to §72 BbgNatSchG).

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FN, LP and MMG conceived and developed the ideas for the manuscript; FN analysed the data and wrote the first draft; LP and MMG commented on all versions of the manuscript; NB, MNC, MMG, FN, NKS, JS, WWW and CW collected and provided data. All authors contributed critically to the drafts and gave final approval for publication.

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Correspondence to Felix Neff.

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Neff, F., Blüthgen, N., Chisté, M.N. et al. Cross-scale effects of land use on the functional composition of herbivorous insect communities. Landscape Ecol 34, 2001–2015 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-019-00872-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10980-019-00872-1

Keywords

  • Functional β-diversity
  • Insects
  • Landscape
  • Management intensity
  • Morphometric traits