Effects of seed addition on beetle assemblages during the re-creation of species-rich lowland hay meadows
Woodcock, B. A., Westbury, D. B., Brook, A. J., Lawson, C. S., Edwards, A. R., Harris, S. J., Heard, M. S., Brown, V. K. and Mortimer, S. R. (2012) Effects of seed addition on beetle assemblages during the re-creation of species-rich lowland hay meadows. Insect Conservation and Diversity, 5 (1). pp. 19-26. ISSN 1752-4598
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To link to this article DOI: 10.1111/j.1752-4598.2011.00132.x
Species-rich lowland hay meadows are of conservation importance for both plants and invertebrates; however, they have declined in area across Europe as a result of conversion to other land uses and management intensification. The re-creation of these grasslands on ex-arable land provides a valuable approach to increasing the extent and conservation value of this threatened habitat. Over a 3-year period a replicated block design was used to test whether introducing seeds promoted the re-creation of both plant and phytophagous beetle assemblages typical of a target hay meadow. Seeds were harvested from local hay meadows, and applied to experimental plots in the form of either green hay or brush harvesting seeds. Green hay spreading achieved the greatest success in re-creating plant and phytophagous beetle assemblages. While re-creation success increased over time for both taxa, for the phytophagous beetles the greatest increase in re-creation success relative to the establishment year also occurred where green hay was applied. We also considered the phytophagous beetles in terms of functional traits that describe host plant specificity, larval feeding location and dispersal. Phytophagous beetle functional trait composition was most similar to the target hay meadow assemblage where some form of seed addition was used, i.e. hay spreading or brush harvested seeds. This study identified the importance of introducing target plant species as a mechanism to promote the re-creation of phytophagous beetle communities. Seed addition methods (e.g. green hay spreading) are crucial to successful hay meadow re-creation.