Linking macrodetritivore distribution to desiccation resistance in small forest fragments embedded in agricultural landscapes in Europe

Pallieter De Smedt*, Lander Baeten, Willem Proesmans, Matty P. Berg, Jörg Brunet, Sara A.O. Cousins, Guillaume Decocq, Marc Deconchat, Martin Diekmann, Emilie Gallet-Moron, Brice Giffard, Jaan Liira, Ludmilla Martin, Astra Ooms, Alicia Valdés, Monika Wulf, Martin Hermy, Dries Bonte, Kris Verheyen

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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    Purpose: Most of the agricultural landscape in Europe, and elsewhere, consists of mosaics with scattered fragments of semi-natural habitat like small forest fragments. Mutual interactions between forest fragments and agricultural areas influence ecosystem processes such as nutrient cycling, a process strongly mediated by the macrodetritivore community, which is however, poorly studied. We investigated macrodetritivore distribution patterns at local and landscape-level and used a key functional trait (desiccation resistance) to gain mechanistic insights of the putative drivers. Methods: Macrodetritivores were sampled in forest edges-centres of 224 European forest fragments across 14 landscapes opposing in land use intensity. We used a multilevel analysis of variance to assess the relative contribution of different spatial scales in explaining activity-density and Shannon-diversity of woodlice and millipedes, together with a model-based analysis of the multivariate activity-density data testing the effect on species composition. Secondly, we tested if desiccation resistance of macrodetritivores varied across communities at different spatial scales using linear mixed effect models. Results: Forest edge-centre and landscape use intensity determined activity-density and community composition of macrodetritivores in forest fragments, while fragment characteristics like size and continuity were relatively unimportant. Forest edges and higher intensity landscapes supported higher activity-density of macrodetritivores and determined species composition. Forest edges sustained woodlouse communities dominated by more drought tolerant species. Conclusions: Landscape use intensity and forest edges are main drivers in macrodetritivore distribution in forest fragments with desiccation resistance a good predictor of macrodetritivore distribution. Key functional traits can help us to predict changes in community structure in changing landscapes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)407-421
    Number of pages15
    JournalLandscape Ecology
    Issue number3
    Early online date6 Jan 2018
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2018


    • Forest edges
    • Landscape use intensity
    • Litter dwelling soil fauna
    • Millipedes
    • Nutrient cycling
    • Woodlice


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