Providing evidence to improve practice

Individual study: Responses of beetle fauna of oolitic limestone grassland to conservation management by different cutting regimes at Castor Hanglands National Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire, England

Published source details

Morris M.G. & Rispin W.E. (1987) A beetle fauna of oolitic limestone grassland, and the responses of species to conservation management by different cutting regimes. Biological Conservation, 43, 87-105


The beetle fauna and the response of species to spring-summer cutting regimes of oolitic limestone grassland were studied in a field experiment established at Castor Hanglands National Nature Reserve, Cambridgeshire (southern England) in 1972.



Four treatments were initiated on false oat-grass Arrhenatherum elatius dominated grassland in 1973: annual cutting in May or July, or both months, with an uncut control, with four replicates of each in a randomized block design. Sixteen plots (each 16 x 12 m) were laid out in a randomised block design (four replicates of four treatments). The site had been unmanaged for several years with shrubs, mostly sloe Prunus spinosa, invading. Shrubs was removed during the first cut.

Coleoptera were sampled by:
1) vacuum netting (D-Vac) at 2-4 weekly intervals from 1972 to 1975;
2) heat extraction (Berlese-type funnels) of circular turf samples (each 0.071 m²), one being removed from each plot in each of four successive weeks for each of five sampling periods in 1973-74.



A total of 217 beetle species were recorded (149 in extraction samples; a further 68 in vacuum net samples). Staphylinidae were the predominant family (87% of all individuals, 39% of species). Numerous species of Carabidae, Chrysomelidae and Curculionidae were also recorded.

The effects of cutting were varied; no beetle species showed a response to treatments in all five sampling periods. Significant detrimental effects (manifested by reduction in abundance) were recorded for 17 species, whilst 12 species responded positively to one or more treatment. Cutting tended to benefit plant-eating species. Most saprophagous species, detritivores, fungivores and some predatory beetles were more abundant in uncut control plots.

Rotational management is recommended as a means of achieving conservation aims, with avoidance of uniformity being important to ensure a mix of tall to short grassland affording a variety of habitats.

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