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Community associations of chalk grassland leafhoppers (Auchenorrhyncha): conclusions for habitat conservation

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  • Biology
  • Design

Abstract

Due to their confinement to specific hostplants or restricted habitat types, Auchenorrhyncha have the potential to make suitable biological indicators to measure the quality of chalk grassland under different management practices for nature conservation. The Auchenorrhyncha data from a study designed to identify the factors influencing the invertebrate diversity of chalk grasslands in southern England was used to evaluate the potential use of this group of insects as biological indicators. Between 1998 and 2002 altogether 81 chalk grassland sites were sampled. Vegetation structure and composition were recorded, and Auchenorrhyncha were sampled at each site on three occasions in each of two seasons using a ‘Vortis’ suction sampler. Auchenorrhyncha assemblages were then linked to the different grassland plant communities occurring on chalk soils according to the British National Vegetation Classification (NVC). Altogether 96 Auchenorrhyncha species were recorded during the study. Using data on the frequency and dominance of species, as is commonly done for plant communities, it was possible to identify the preferential and differential species of distinct Auchenorrhyncha assemblages. Significant differences between the Auchenorrhyncha assemblages associated with the various chalk grassland plant communities of the NVC were observed down to a level of sub-communities. We conclude that data on Auchenorrhyncha assemblages can provide valuable information for the setting of conservation management priorities, where data on floristic composition alone may not be sufficient, providing additional information on aspects of vegetation structure and condition.

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