Sectoral impacts on the diversity of carabid beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and their associated ecosystem service of biocontrol

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O'Rourke, Erin
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University College Cork
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This thesis aimed to provide an understanding of how human-induced changes in the economic sectors of agriculture and transport affect carabid diversity, potential carabidmediated biocontrol and predator-pest interactions. The research involved both observational and manipulative laboratory and field-based studies. Observational research consisted of two large-scale investigations of (1) the impact of Miscanthus and oilseed rape production (n=45) and (2) the impact of horticultural and ecological based landscaping of roadside verges (n=64). This research is the first record of carabid diversity, potential biocontrol and community assemblage with respect to bioenergy crop production and roadside landscaping in an Irish context and it is also an important addition to the limited knowledge of carabid populations in these ecosystems internationally. Manipulative work involved the examination of the role predator identity, diversity and biomass play in the suppression of pollen beetle larvae (an economically damaging insect pest of oilseed rape in Europe), using a novel experimental design called ‘simplex’. To complement this research, an additional field study on the impact of low and high oilseed rape pesticide management on carabid species richness and abundance, and crop yield, was also conducted. This research is a great contribution to the existing understanding of what constitutes the important components of predator biodiversity and expands the knowledge of the usefulness of carabid predators in the context of pollen beetle larvae control. In particular, the work shows that the abundance or biomass of beetles has an effect that is far larger than the effect of diversity on the capacity of beetles to consume prey. In turn, the field study showed that pesticide applications had little impact on yield, or carabid richness, but that carabid abundance/biomass declined drastically. The work provides compelling evidence that management practices erode the useful components of biodiversity that are essential for the delivery of biocontrol services.
PRIMER-E , Biodiversity , Biocontrol , Predator-pest interactions , Bioenergy crops , Miscanthus , Oilseed rape , Multivariate analysis , Mixed effect models , Road ecosystems , Ecological landscape design
O'Rourke, E. 2013. Sectoral impacts on the diversity of carabid beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and their associated ecosystem service of biocontrol. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.