National scale metacommunity dynamics of carabid beetles in UK farmland

D. R. Brooks, J. N. Perry, S. J. Clark, M. S. Heard, L. G. Firbank, R. Holdgate, N. S. Mason, C. R. Shortall, M. P. Skellern, I. P. Woiwod

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21 Citations (SciVal)


Understanding the wide-scale processes controlling communities across multiple sites is a foremost challenge of modern ecology. Here, data from a nation-wide network of field sites are used to describe the metacommunity dynamics of arable carabid beetles. This is done by modelling how communities are structured at a local level, by changes in the environment of the sampled fields and, at a regional level, by fitting spatial parameters describing latitudinal and longitudinal gradients.
Local and regional processes demonstrated independent and significant capacities for structuring communities. Within the local environment, crop type was found to be the primary determinant of carabid community composition. The regional component included a strong response to a longitudinal gradient, with significant increases in diversity in an east-to-west direction.
Carabid metacommunities seem to be structured by a combination of species sorting dynamics, operating at two different, but equally important, spatial scales. At a local scale, species are sorted along a resource gradient determined by crop type. At a wider spatial scale species appear to be sorted along a longitudinal gradient.
Nation-wide trends in communities coincided with known gradients of increased homogeneity of habitat mosaics and agricultural intensification. However, more work is required to understand fully how communities are controlled by the interaction of crops with changes in landscape structure at different spatial scales.
We conclude that crop type is a powerful determinant of carabid biodiversity, but that it cannot be considered in isolation from other components of the landscape for optimal conservation policy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)265-274
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Animal Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2008


  • arable crops
  • Farm Scale Evaluations
  • regional variation
  • species diversity
  • species sorting


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