Gallé et al: Landscape configuration, organic management, and within-field position... (2019)

Gallé, R., Happe A.K., Baillod, A., Tscharntke, T., Batáry P.
Landscape configuration, organic management, and within-field position drive functional diversity of spiders and carabids.
J Appl Ecol. 2019;56:63–72.

Agricultural management intensity and landscape heterogeneity act as the main drivers of biodiversity loss in agricultural landscapes while also determining ecosystem services. The trait‐based functional diversity approach offers a way to assess changes in community functionality across agroecosystems. We focused on carabids and spiders, because they are an important component of crop field biodiversity and have significant biological control potential.
We assessed the effect of small‐ vs. large‐scale agricultural landscapes, organic farming, and within‐field position on functional diversity of spiders and carabids. We sampled pairs of organic and conventional winter wheat fields in small‐scale agricultural landscapes (former West Germany) and in neighbouring large‐scale agricultural landscapes (former East Germany). We sampled arthropods with funnel traps in transects at field edges, field interiors (15 m from edge), and field centres.
The gradient from field edges towards the centres played an important role: spider body size decreased; ballooning ability increased, and hunting strategy switched from active hunters to more web‐builders—presumably, due to higher microhabitat stability in the field centre. Higher trait diversity of spiders in field edges suggested higher biocontrol potential in small‐scale agriculture. In contrast, carabid feeding switched from herbivores to carnivores, presumably due to higher pest densities inside crop fields. Furthermore, small‐scale agricultural landscapes and organic management supported larger, i.e., less dispersive carabids.
Synthesis and applications. In our research, spiders were more sensitive to edge effects and less sensitive to management and landscape composition than carabids. Smaller fields and longer edges, as well as organic management increase carabid functional diversity, which may increase resilience to environmental change. Since many spider species are confined to field edges, the effect of within‐field position on functional diversity is more important in small‐scale agricultural landscapes with more edge habitat than in large‐scale agricultural landscapes. Our findings suggest that European Union policy should acknowledge the high benefits of small‐scale agriculture for the functional role of major predators such as spiders and carabid beetles, as the benefits are equal to those from a conversion to organic agriculture.