University Of Tasmania
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Using insect biodiversity to measure the effectiveness of on-farm restoration plantings

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posted on 2023-05-26, 03:01 authored by Mann, V
Advances in farming technology, and the variety of modern agricultural practices, have the potential to reduce, maintain or improve biodiversity in an agricultural landscape. Environmentally sensitive farming systems are becoming more important on a local level, as climate change, declining biodiversity and habitat fragmentation impact the environment at a landscape scale. Invertebrates are important components of an agricultural landscape, playing numerous roles including pest control, plant protection, pollination, and carbon cycling. They are also an important food source for many reptiles, birds, mammals and other insects, making them a key component of the food chain. Ants in particular are useful tools in biodiversity monitoring as they are abundant in both disturbed and intact habitats, and their many functional groups help to illustrate their community structure at a given point in time. For these reasons, they can be used to demonstrate the short and long term impacts of land management in various environments, including rehabilitated mine sites, fire affected regions, and agricultural landscapes. Conducted on working farms, this study looked specifically at insect in the agricultural landscape, using 10 sheep pastures which have been restored with eucalypt plantings. Looking at species richness, relative abundance, and community structure, this study assessed the ant and beetle communities in these plantings and compares these to pasture control sites and nearby remnant woodland patch control sites. The influences of elevation, ground cover, soil clay, patch size, and age of planting were tested using regression analyses. It was found that leaf litter cover and weediness have a significant influence on invertebrate recolonisation of a restoration planting. Elevation was negatively correlated for all ant activity, whilst the age of the planting was positively correlated with ant abundance and species richness. This study shows that ants can be useful monitoring tools in agricultural landscapes, and specifically useful when assessing the effectiveness of on-farm restoration plantings. It also provides a better understanding of the influence of environmental variables on a restoration planting, which in turn can help inform land management decisions.


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