Agroenergy crops influence the diversity, biomass, and guild structure of terrestrial arthropod communities


Agroenergy crops influence the diversity, biomass, and guild structure of terrestrial arthropod communities

Publication Type:

Journal Article


BioEnergy Research, Springer New York, Volume 5, p.179-188 (2012)






Expanded production of contemporary bioenergy crops (e.g., corn) is considered a threat to the conservation of biodiversity, yet next-generation perennially based crops (switchgrass, mixed-grass–forb prairie) may represent an opportunity for enhancing biodiversity in agricultural landscapes. We employed a multi-scaled approach to investigate the relative importance of feedstock selection, forb content, patch size, and landscape-scale habitat structure and composition as factors shaping the diversity and abundance of terrestrial arthropod communities and the biomass of functional groups of arthropods associated with the provisioning of ecosystem services. Compared to intensively managed annual corn fields, switchgrass and mixed-grass–forb prairie plantings were associated with a 230% and 324% increase in arthropod family diversity and a 750% and 2,700% increase in arthropod biomass, respectively. Biomass of arthropod pollinators, herbivores, predators, and parasites were similarly the highest in mixed-grass–forb prairie, intermediate in switchgrass plantings, and the lowest in cornfields. Community-wide biomass and that of several functional arthropod groups were positively linked to increasing forest cover and land cover diversity surrounding biomass plantings, while pollinator and detritivore biomass was lower in smaller fields. Results not only suggest that the choice of biomass feedstock will play an important role in shaping within-field arthropod diversity but also indicate an important role for the composition of this surrounding landscape. Collectively, our results suggest that selection of perennially based biomass feedstocks along with careful attention to crop placement have important potential to enhance biodiversity conservation and the provisioning of ecologically and economically important arthropod-mediated ecosystem services in future agricultural landscapes.