Effects of livestock grazing on aboveground insect communities in semi-arid grasslands of southeastern Arizona

  • Sandra J. Debano
Part of the Topics in Biodiversity and Conservation book series (TOBC, volume 3)


Despite the importance of invertebrates in grassland ecosystems, few studies have examined how grassland invertebrates have been impacted by disturbances in the southwestern United States. These grasslands may be particularly sensitive to one common disturbance, livestock grazing, because they have not recently evolved in the presence of large herds of bison, an important mammalian herbivore. This study examined how livestock grazing influenced vegetation-associated insect communities in southeastern Arizona. Insect abundance, richness, diversity, community composition, and key environmental variables were compared between sites on active cattle ranches and sites on a 3160 ha sanctuary that has not been grazed by cattle for over 25 years. Vegetation-associated insect communities were found to be sensitive to livestock grazing. Overall abundance of these insects was lower on grazed grasslands, and certain insect orders appeared to be negatively affected by livestock grazing; beetles were less rich, flies were less diverse, and Hymenoptera were less rich and diverse on grazed sites. Conversely, Hemiptera were more diverse on grazed sites. Species composition of vegetation-associated insect communities also differed and was significantly correlated with percent vegetation cover and number of shrubs. Insect species responsible for these differences were taxonomically diverse, and included herbivores and predators/ parasites. When compared to other studies conducted in areas of the United States that fall within the historic range of bison, this study suggests that invertebrates in areas outside this range may be more sensitive to grazing pressure.

Key words

Arizona Grasslands Insect communities Insect conservation Livestock grazing 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra J. Debano
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EntomologyUniversity of KentuckyLexingtonUSA

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