Comparing the effects of farming practices on ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and spider (Araneae) assemblages of Scottish farmland

Lorna J. Cole, David I. McCracken, Iain S. Downie, Peter Dennis, Garth S. Foster, Tony Waterhouse, Kevin J. Murphy, Anna L. Griffin, Mike P. Kennedy

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61 Citations (SciVal)


Multivariate techniques were used to compare and contrast the effects of land cover and farming practice on ground beetle and spider assemblages of Scottish farmland. For both ground beetles and spiders, the ordination and fuzzy clustering of sites were related to land cover rather than geographical location or year of sampling. The same four types of land cover group were identified: that is, heather moorland, semi-natural grassland, intensive grassland and arable land. The robustness of these land cover groups was tested using previously unsampled sites and it was found that 79 and 86% of sites, for ground beetle and spider assemblages respectively, were allocated to the land cover group predicted from their actual land cover. Furthermore, procrustes rotational analysis found a strong relationship between ground beetle and spider assemblages in intensively managed sites, suggesting that the assemblage structure of one group could be used to predict that of the other. The observed relationship between spider and ground beetle assemblages does not necessarily indicate that both groups were responding to agricultural practices in the same way. Indeed, the highest number of beetle species occurred in intensively managed grassland and arable sites while the highest number of spider species occurred in semi-natural grassland and heather sites. When conducting ecological assessments, one might wish to collect information on a wide range of ecologically different taxa; however, financial constraints make this unfeasible. From the results it could be concluded that spiders should be chosen in preference to ground beetles when seeking to make predictions on how farming practices influence invertebrates. However, such a conclusion would be premature since not only were spiders more numerous in the traps, but they were also more time consuming to process. In addition, the strong relationship found between the spider and ground beetle assemblages further justifies carabids as a target group when monitoring the influence of farming practices on biodiversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-460
JournalBiodiversity and Conservation
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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