Fine-scale drivers of beetle diversity are affected by vegetation context and agricultural history

Catherine E. Ross*, Philip S. Barton, Sue McIntyre, Saul A. Cunningham, Adrian D. Manning

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Environmental gradients have been shown to affect animal diversity, but knowledge of fine-scale drivers of insect diversity is, in many cases, poorly developed. We investigated the drivers of beetle diversity and composition at different microhabitats, and how this may be mediated by past agricultural activities. The study was undertaken in temperate eucalypt grassy woodland near Canberra, south-eastern Australia, with a 200-year history of pastoral land use. We sampled beetles using pitfall traps at three microhabitats (open grassland, logs and under trees). We analysed the effects of soil properties, vegetation structure, and plant composition on beetle composition, and compared beetle responses among the microhabitats. We found that microhabitat was a strong determinant of the way beetle communities responded to their environment. Soil nutrients (C, N and P) were the strongest drivers of beetle species richness, abundance and composition at open and log microhabitat, however vegetation structure (tree basal area) was more important for beetle richness, abundance and biomass under trees. We also found significant differences in beetle composition among distinct ground-layer plant communities at log and tree microhabitat. We show that prior agricultural land use, particularly fertilization, has altered soil and plant communities, and that these effects continue to flow through the system affecting beetle assemblages. These findings have implications for future management of microhabitat structures in temperate grassy woodlands with a history of agricultural use.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)831-843
    Number of pages13
    JournalAustral Ecology
    Issue number7
    Publication statusPublished - Nov 2017


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