Effects of land cover type on carabid beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) of the Canterbury foothills, New Zealand.
Background: Land cover changes during the recent history of New Zealand have had a major impact on its largely endemic and iconic biodiversity. As in many other countries, large areas of native forest have been replaced by other land cover and are now in exotic pasture grassland or plantation forest. Ground beetles (Carabidae) are often used as ecological indicators, they provide ecosystem services such as pest control, and some species are endangered. However, few studies in New Zealand have assessed the habitat value for carabid beetles of natural forest, managed regenerating natural forest, pine plantation forest and pasture. Methods: We compared the carabid beetle assemblages of natural forest of Nothofagus solandri var. solandri (also known as Fuscospora solandri or black beech), regenerating N. solandri forest managed for timber production, exotic pine plantation forest and exotic pasture, using pitfall traps. The study was conducted at Woodside Forest in the foothills of the Southern Alps, North Canterbury, New Zealand, close to an area where the critically endangered carabid Holcaspis brevicula was found. Results: A total of 1192 carabid individuals from 23 species were caught during the study. All but two species were native to New Zealand, with the exotic species present only in low numbers and one of these only in the pasture habitat. Carabid relative abundance and the number of species was highest in the pine plantation, where a total of 15 species were caught; however, rarefied species richness did not differ significantly between habitats. The sampled carabid beetle assemblages were similar across the three forested habitat types but differed significantly from the pasture assemblages based on unconstrained and canonical analyses of principal coordinates. Holcaspis brevicula was not detected in this area. Conclusions: Our results show that managed or exotic habitats may provide habitat to species-rich carabid assemblages although some native species occur only in natural, undisturbed vegetation. Nevertheless, it is important to acknowledge the potential contribution of these land uses and land cover types to the conservation of native biodiversity and to consider how these can be managed to maximise conservation opportunities.