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The Auchenorrhyncha communities of chalk grassland in southern England

  • Due to their confinement to specific host plants or restricted habitat types, Auchenorrhyncha are suitable biological indicators to measure the quality of chalk grassland under different management practices for nature conservation. They can especially be used as a tool to assess the success of restoring chalk grassland on ex-arable land. One objective of this study was to identify the factors which most effectively conserve and enhance biological diversity of existing chalk grasslands or allow the creation of new areas of such species-rich grassland on ex-arable land. A second objective was to link Auchenorrhyncha communities to the different grassland communities occurring on chalk according to the NVC (National Vegetation Classification). Altogether 100 chalk grassland and arable reversion sites were sampled between 1998 and 2002. Some of the arable reversion sites had been under certain grazing or mowing regimes for up to ten years by 2002. Vegetation structure and composition were recorded, and Auchenorrhyncha were sampled three times during the summer of each year using a "vortis" suction sampler. Altogether 110 leafhopper species were recorded during the study. Two of the species, Kelisia occirrega and Psammotettix helvolus, although widespread within the area studied, had not previously been recognized as part of the British fauna. By displaying insect frequency and dominance as it is commonly done for vegetation communities, it was possible to classify preferential and differential species of distinct Auchenorrhyncha communities. The linking of the entomological data with vegetation communities defined by the NVC showed that different vegetation communities were reflected by distinct Auchenorrhyncha communities. Significant differences were observed down to the level of sub-communities. The data revealed a strong positive relationship between the diversity of leafhoppers species and the vegetation height. There was also a positive correlation between the species richness of Auchenorrhyncha and the diversity of plant species. In that context it is remarkable that there was no correlation between vegetation height and botanical diversity. There is a substantial decrease in Auchenorrhyncha species richness from unimproved grassland to improved grassland and arable reversion. The decline of typical chalk grassland and general dry grassland species is especially notable. Consequently, the number of stenotopic Auchenorrhyncha species which are confined to only a few habitat types, are drastically reduced with the improvement of chalk grassland. Improved grassland and arable reversion fields are almost exclusively inhabited by common habitat generalists. The decrease in typical chalk grassland plants due to improvement is mirrored in the decline of Auchenorrhyncha species, which rely monophagously or oligophagously on specific host plants. But even where suitable host plants re-colonize arable reversion sites quickly, there is a considerable delay before leafhoppers follow. That becomes especially obvious with polyphagous leafhoppers like Turrutus socialis or Mocydia crocea, which occur on improved grassland or arable reversion sites only in low frequency and abundance, despite wide appearance or even increased dominance of their host plants. These species can be considered as the most suitable indicators to measure success or failure of long term grassland restoration. A time period of ten years is not sufficient to restore species-rich invertebrate communities on grassland, even if the flora indicates an early success.

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Author:Norbert Maczey
Referee:Eberhard Fischer, Ulrich Sinsch
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Date of completion:2006/11/03
Date of publication:2006/11/03
Publishing institution:Universität Koblenz-Landau, Campus Koblenz, Universitätsbibliothek
Granting institution:Universität Koblenz, Fachbereich 3
Date of final exam:2005/08/03
Release Date:2006/11/03
Tag:Auchenorrhyncha; Grünlandbewirtschaftung; Kalkmagerrasen; Wiederbesiedlung; Zikaden
Auchenorrhyncha; chalk grassland; leafhoppers; planthoppers; recolonisation
Number of pages:230
Institutes:Fachbereich 3 / Institut für Integrierte Naturwissenschaften / Institut für Integrierte Naturwissenschaften, Abt. Biologie
Dewey Decimal Classification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 57 Biowissenschaften; Biologie / 570 Biowissenschaften; Biologie
Licence (German):License LogoEs gilt das deutsche Urheberrecht: § 53 UrhG