Diversity, Abundance and Distribution of Ground Invertebrates in Lower Sharpham Farm

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For her dissertation, Plymouth University Environmental Science student Valeria compared the diversity, abundance, and distribution of ground invertebrates in rewilded and farmed fields at Lower Sharpham.

The study found a higher abundance of terrestrial invertebrates in the rewilded field with 559 individuals collected during the 5-day sampling period, compared with 297 in the farmed field. These results indicate that rewilding has a positive effect on terrestrial invertebrate abundance. The study found little difference in species richness between fields, both had similar orders of species, 18 in the rewilded field and 17 in the farmed field. Springtails (Entomobryomorpha) and beetles (Coleoptera) were dominant in both.

Springtails are decomposers and play an important role in nutrient cycling and soil fertility. They serve as food sources for farmland predators such as beetles, predatory mites, and some spiders. They are an understudied taxa, though their functional role in decomposition processes and soil formation are important species for soil health (Chen et al., 2007).”

Beetles have various functional roles in the ecosystem such as decomposers, predators, and pollinators, which contribute to essential ecological processes. Beetle numbers were similar in both the farmed and rewilded field. It is known that organic farming has positive effects on beetle communities which could help explain this finding.

Organic farms, like Lower Sharpham, tend to support a higher number of species and abundance across most taxa compared to non-organic farms as they reduce insect mortality from direct exposure to pesticides (Fuller et al, 2005). Organic farming practices also contribute to soil biodiversity, which can improve soil health and nutrient cycling.

This study determines that rewilding works as a tool for promoting invertebrate abundance and that organic farms have a positive impact on invertebrate diversity. Overall, long-term regular monitoring is needed to evaluate the success of rewilding for biodiversity over time. The outcomes of the study not only evidence the importance of rewilding for invertebrate conservation but also the importance of low-intensive agriculture practices for biodiversity.

Read the full paper here: Diversity, Abundance and Distribution of Ground Invertebrates in Lower Sharpham Farm

Valeria setting up Pitfall traps in the field to collect invertebrates

Invertebrate analysis in the laboratory 

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