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Impact of Land Use Change and Litter Beetles: A Case Study from the Forest and Coffee Ecosystems of the Western Ghats of India

Research Team: Smitha Badrinarayanan, Jagadish Krishnaswamy, Sharachchandra Lélé and K. Chandrasekhara

How do different forest management practices and the conversion of forests to other land uses affect biodiversity, in particular the diversity and structure of litter insect communities? This is the second of two studies conducted in the Western Ghats region of India that explored  this question.

This study analysed the impact of the conversion of forest to coffee plantations in the Western Ghats on beetle communities in the litter layer using a space-for-time substitution. Remote sensing data, GIS, and field surveys were employed to select four blocks, each containing comparable sites under three different land use types - forests, coffee plantations with multispecies shade trees, and coffee plantations with shade trees of just one exotic species (silver oak— Grevillea robusta).

Beetle communities at these twelve sites were sampled using pitfall traps at the beginning and the end of the dry season in 2000-2001. Forests consistently had higher density (33 to 227 per cent) and species richness (by 37 to 93 per cent) of beetles than coffee plantations. Both multi-species and monoculture shade coffee plantations had equally low beetle species richness by the end of the dry season. Vegetation parameters explained 77 per cent of the variation in beetle species richness across these land use types (p<0.0001). The three land use types held similar proportions of species in various trophic guilds. An analysis of beetle community composition suggests that forests may act as refugia for certain beetle species during the dry season. This highlights the need to conserve all remaining forest fragments in this landscape.

Published in: K.N. Ganeshaiah, R.U. Shaanker and K.S. Bawa (Eds) Proceedings of International Conference on Tropical Ecosystems: Structure, Diversity, and Human Welfare. New Delhi, Oxford-IBH Publishing Co., pp.162-163. (Extended Abstract PDF)


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