Relationships between agricultural management and ecological groups of ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) on Scottish farmland

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

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The primary aim of this research was to classify ground beetle species, collected from farmland habitats in Scotland, into distinct groups based on their ecological traits. The objective classification of 68 species on this basis, using multivariate analyses, identified seven distinct ecological groups that were primarily determined by size, diel activity and diet (e.g. large Carabus spp., nocturnal plant feeders and species feeding on Collembola). The influence of agricultural land use and management intensity on these ecological groups was then investigated. The percentage of both Carabus spp. and individuals was greater on heather moorland and semi-natural grassland sites than in intensively managed arable or grassland sites. The percentage of Carabus spp. was also adversely affected by intensive agricultural management. A higher percentage of carabids feed specifically on Collembola in intensive grassland sites than in arable or semi-natural grassland sites suggesting that Collembola were more available in intensive grassland. This study introduces a non-taxonomic method of classifying carabids on the basis of their ecology. Such classification methods not only enable influences of agriculture to be detected across broad ecological groups rather than being reliant on the presence of a few key indicator species, but may also help in predicting how such changes to the community structure may influence ecosystem functioning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)323-336
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002


  • carabids
  • function
  • farmland
  • ecology
  • land use


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