What is it about?

We set out to assess how adapting landscapes can improve insect biodiversity conservation with a changing climate. We sampled ant biodiversity across a 270-kilometre elevation gradient, west of Armidale, in New South Wales. The sites sampled varied in vegetation cover and land-use. 210-thousand arthropods were collected and sorted into major groups, and ants (making up 63% of the collection) were identified further to species level. We using predictive modelling to help land managers see the impact that changing grazing intensity or the type of land cover, can have on ant richness.

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Why is it important?

Increasing woody vegetation and reducing land use intensity could mitigate the impacts of climate change on insect biodiversity. We found that having more native trees and shrubs on a farm will enhance ant biodiversity and help mitigate the impacts of climate change. If you have a lot of exotic vegetation and bare ground, then many ant species will become more vulnerable to rapid change. There was greater ant richness associated with greater native woody plant canopy cover, while there was lower species richness with higher cultivation, grazing intensity and exotic plants. Ant diversity is critical for the environment and landholders. Ants dominate the environment we live in so if you lose ant species you can lose ecosystem functions. Ants collect seeds, aerate the soil and predate on pests. If you change the type of ants in an environment you can change the dynamics and ecology of your landscape. Once lost, the remaining species may not be as efficient at delivering function to the environment so the ecosystem can become less resilient to change. If you are able to modify land practises, if you want to build in resilience to environmental change on your farm then managing and increasing native vegetation is an important component: not only will it help in the health of the landscape but it will also help them become more adaptable to a warming climate.

Perspectives

This is one of the few current examples of integrating land use change and grazing intensity with predicting impacts of climate change. Resilience of ecosystem engineers to climate change can be strongly influenced by landscape management methods

Dr Nigel R Andrew
University of New England

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This page is a summary of: Additive and synergistic effects of land cover, land use and climate on insect biodiversity, Landscape Ecology, July 2016, Springer Science + Business Media, DOI: 10.1007/s10980-016-0411-9.
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