3 years ago

Ecological response hides behind the species abundance distribution: Community response to low-intensity disturbance in managed grasslands

Ecological response hides behind the species abundance distribution: Community response to low-intensity disturbance in managed grasslands
Atte Komonen, Merja Elo
Land-use and management are disturbance factors that have diverse effects on community composition and structure. In traditional rural grasslands, such as meadows and pastures, low-intensity management is maintained to enhance biodiversity. Maintenance of road verges, in turn, creates habitat, which may complement traditional rural grasslands. To evaluate the effect of low-intensity disturbance on insect communities, we characterized species abundance distributions (SAD) for Carabidae, Formicidae, and Heteroptera in three grassland types, which differed in management: meadows, pastures, and road verges. The shape of SAD was estimated with three parameters: abundance decay rate, dominance, and rarity. We compared the SAD shape among the grassland types and tested the effect of environmental heterogeneity (plant species richness) and disturbance intensity (trampling in pastures) on SADs. The shape of SADs did not differ among the grassland types but among the taxonomic groups instead. Abundance decay rate and dominance were larger for Formicidae, and rarity smaller, than for Carabidae and Heteroptera. For Carabidae and window-trapped Heteroptera, rarity increased with increasing plant species richness. For Formicidae, dominance increased with trampling intensity in pastures. Although the SAD shape remained largely unchanged, the identity of the dominant species tended to vary within and among grassland types. Our study shows that for a given taxonomic group, the SAD shape is similar across habitat types with low-intensity disturbances resulting from different management. This suggests that SADs respond primarily to the intensity of disturbance and thus could be best used in monitoring communities across strong disturbance and environmental gradients. Because taxonomic groups can inherently have different SADs, taxon-specific SADs for undisturbed communities must be empirically documented before the SAD shape can be used as an indicator of environmental change. Because the identity of the dominant species changes from management type to another, the SAD shape alone is not an adequate monitoring tool. We characterized species abundance distributions (SADs) for Carabidae, Formicidae, and Heteroptera communities in three grassland types, which differed in management: meadows, pastures, and road verges. Our study shows that for a given taxonomic group, the SAD shape is similar across habitat types with low-intensity disturbances resulting from different management types. However, because the identity of the dominant species changes from management type to another, the SAD shape alone is not an adequate monitoring tool.

Publisher URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/resolve/doi

DOI: 10.1002/ece3.3395

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