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Crop cover the principal influence on non-crop ground beetle (Coleoptera, Carabidae) activity and assemblages at the farm scale in a long-term assessment

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2016

M.D. Eyre
Nafferton Ecological Farming Group, University of Newcastle upon Tyne, Nafferton Farm, Stocksfield, Northumberland NE43 7XD, UK
R.A. Sanderson
School of Biology, Ridley Building, University of Newcastle, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, UK
S.D. McMillan
ADAS UK Ltd., Alcester Road, Stratford-Upon-Avon, Warwickshire CV37 9RQ, UK
C.N.R. Critchley*
ADAS UK Ltd., c/o Newcastle University, NEFG Offices, Nafferton Farm, Stocksfield, Northumberland NE43 7XD, UK
*Author for correspondence Tel.: +44 1661 830643 Fax: +44 1661 830643 E-mail:


Ground beetle data were generated using pitfall traps in the 17-year period from 1993 to 2009 and used to investigate the effects of changes in surrounding crop cover on beetle activity and assemblages, together with the effects of weather variability. Beetles were recorded from non-crop field margins (overgrown hedges). Crop cover changes explained far more variation in the beetle assemblages recorded than did temperature and rainfall variation. A reduction in management intensity and disturbance in the crops surrounding the traps, especially the introduction and development of willow coppice, was concomitant with changes in individual species activity and assemblage composition of beetles trapped in non-crop habitat. There were no consistent patterns in either overall beetle activity or in the number of species recorded over the 17-year period, but there was a clear change from assemblages dominated by smaller species with higher dispersal capability to ones with larger beetles with less dispersal potential and a preference for less disturbed agroecosystems. The influence of surrounding crops on ground beetle activity in non-crop habitat has implications for ecosystem service provision by ground beetles as pest predators. These results are contrary to conventional assumptions and interpretations, which suggest activity of pest predators in crops is influenced primarily by adjacent non-crop habitat. The long-term nature of the assessment was important in elucidation of patterns and trends, and indicated that policies such as agri-environment schemes should take cropping patterns into account when promoting management options that are intended to enhance natural pest control.

Research Papers
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

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Crop cover the principal influence on non-crop ground beetle (Coleoptera, Carabidae) activity and assemblages at the farm scale in a long-term assessment
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