Tillage effects on ground beetles in temperate climates: a review


Ground beetles (carabids) constitute an important functional component of biodiversity in agroecosystems, mainly because of their role as predators of pests, but also as consumers of weed seeds and as prey to other organisms. Over the past few decades, there has been a marked and continuous decline of ground beetles in Europe, and many species of this insect family are threatened by intensive agricultural practices. The effect of soil tillage, a standard technique in arable farming, on carabids has been investigated in many experimental studies. However, there is currently no clear and differentiated picture of how ground beetles are affected by tillage operations in direct and indirect ways. In this review, we narrow this gap of knowledge and show that the effects of intensive tillage on ground beetles—especially the use of mouldboard ploughing—are extremely variable. Nonetheless, on balance across multiple studies, greater tillage intensity tends to have a negative effect on abundance, species richness, and diversity. The observed variability may partly be attributed to a change in species-specific food availability or habitat conditions, induced by tillage. Tillage effects on dominant species tend to have a strong impact on total carabid abundance. The high variability of carabid responses to tillage is also a consequence of various modifying factors such as cover cropping, rotations, and variations in weed control associated with tillage. Because different modes of tillage tend to affect different carabid species, the diversification of tillage operations within a farm or region may contribute to the overall diversity of carabid communities.

Agronomy for Sustainable Development, (42), 4, https://doi.org/10.1007/s13593-022-00803-6