Revegetation of farmland restores function and composition of epigaeic beetle assemblages Academic Article uri icon

abstract

  • Restoration of managed landscapes is critical for the conservation of biodiversity and function at a landscape scale. We tested effects of revegetation of grazing land formerly vegetated by eucalyptus woodland on trophic groups of epigaeic beetles, considering a restoration chronosequence (space-for-time substitution). We used paddocks (i.e. grazed pastures) as the start point, sites in two age classes (5-8 and 12-17 since years since replanting) and fenced woodland remnants to represent the desired end point. Phytophages were most common in young revegetated sites, which had reduced grazing pressure and low canopy cover. Assemblage composition of both saprophages and predators converged on those of remnants over “time”. Paddock sites had the lowest species evenness of saprophages, with two species being particularly common. Saprophage assemblages in paddocks were also more homogeneous than those in other site types i.e. between site variation in assemblage composition was low. Predators were smaller but more species-rich in sites with less coarse woody debris, canopy cover and litter, possibly responding to higher abundances of small prey. Beetle biomass did not differ across habitats. For saprophages, a greater abundance in paddocks was counterbalanced by reduced body size. Remnants did not support a significantly greater proportion of habitat-specific species. However, more species than expected were specific to treed sites. Our study supports previous findings that habitat structure is a key driver of beetle community restoration. It also suggests that epigaeic assemblages respond relatively rapidly to revegetation, probably because they do not require resources that develop over long periods of time. The similarities in biomass for all trophic groups across sites suggest that beetle-performed functions may operate similarly in different stages, reflecting high functional resilience of epigaeic beetle assemblages in this landscape.

publication date

  • March 2010

has subject area