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Revista chilena de historia natural

Print version ISSN 0716-078X


GREZ, AUDREY A.; ZAVIEZO, TANIA  and  REYES, SUSANA. Short-term effects of habitat fragmentation on the abundance and species richness of beetles in experimental alfalfa micro-landscapes. Rev. chil. hist. nat. [online]. 2004, vol.77, n.3, pp.547-558. ISSN 0716-078X.

Habitat loss and fragmentation are considered as the main causes of biodiversity depression. Habitat loss implies a reduction of suitable habitat for organisms, and habitat fragmentation is a change in the spatial configuration of the landscape, with the remaining fragments resulting more or less isolated. Recent theory indicates that the effects of habitat loss are more important than those of habitat fragmentation, however there are few experimental studies evaluating both processes separately. To test the effects of habitat fragmentation per se on the abundance, species richness and diversity of epigeal coleopterans, 15 (30 x 30 m) alfalfa micro-landscapes, distributed in three blocks, were created. On twelve of them, 84 % of the habitat was removed, leaving in each landscape four or 16 fragments separated by 2 or 6 m of bare ground. From December 2002 to April 2003, before and after fragmentation, coleopterans were sampled using pitfall traps. In total, 8,074 coleopterans of 75 species belonging to 16 families were captured. Neither habitat fragmentation nor habitat loss affected the total abundance of coleopterans, with the exception of Anthicidae that was more abundant in the micro-landscapes composed by four fragments separated for 2 m. This family was also more abundant in the matrix of fragmented micro-landscapes, while most other beetle families were more abundant in the fragments, significantly Carabidae and Lathridiidae. Species richness (per trap and per landscape) was higher in micro-landscapes with 16 fragments separated by 6 m. Contrary to what is described frequently in the literature, habitat fragmentation did not negatively affect the abundance or the species richness of epigeal coleopterans. Rather, smaller and more isolated alfalfa fragments seem to provide habitat to support greater biodiversity. These results agree with more recent findings where habitat fragmentation per se seems not to have deleterious effects on the fauna, instead, it could favor the biota, at least at short time scales

Keywords : habitat fragmentation; habitat loss; micro-landscapes; diversity of epigeal beetles.

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