Boundaries in ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and environmental variables at the edges of forest patches with residential developments

Article English OPEN
Doreen E. Davis ; Sara A. Gagné (2018)
  • Publisher: PeerJ Inc.
  • Journal: PeerJ, volume 6 (issn: 2167-8359, eissn: 2167-8359)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.7717/peerj.4226, pmc: PMC5764035
  • Subject: Edge effects | Ecology | R | Biodiversity | Biogeography | Medicine | Boundary detection | Conservation Biology | Temperate deciduous forest | Southeast USA | Urbanization

Background Few studies of edge effects on wildlife objectively identify habitat edges or explore non-linear responses. In this paper, we build on ground beetle (Coleoptera: Carabidae) research that has begun to address these domains by using triangulation wombling to identify boundaries in beetle community structure and composition at the edges of forest patches with residential developments. We hypothesized that edges are characterized by boundaries in environmental variables that correspond to marked discontinuities in vegetation structure between maintained yards and forest. We expected environmental boundaries to be associated with beetle boundaries. Methods We collected beetles and measured environmental variables in 200 m by 200 m sampling grids centered at the edges of three forest patches, each with a rural, suburban, or urban context, in Charlotte, North Carolina, USA. We identified boundaries within each grid at two spatial scales and tested their significance and overlap using boundary statistics and overlap statistics, respectively. We complemented boundary delineation with k-means clustering. Results Boundaries in environmental variables, such as temperature, grass cover, and leaf litter depth, occurred at or near the edges of all three sites, in many cases at both scales. The beetle variables that exhibited the most pronounced boundary structure in relation to edges were total species evenness, generalist abundance, generalist richness, generalist evenness, and Agonum punctiforme abundance. Environmental and beetle boundaries also occurred within forest patches and residential developments, indicating substantial localized spatial variation on either side of edges. Boundaries in beetle and environmental variables that displayed boundary structure at edges significantly overlapped, as did boundaries on either side of edges. The comparison of boundaries and clusters revealed that boundaries formed parts of the borders of patches of similar beetle or environmental condition. Discussion We show that edge effects on ground beetle community structure and composition and environmental variation at the intersection of forest patches and residential developments can be described by boundaries and that these boundaries overlap in space. However, our results also highlight the complexity of edge effects in our system: environmental boundaries were located at or near edges whereas beetle boundaries related to edges could be spatially disjunct from them; boundaries incompletely delineated edges such that only parts of edges were well-described by sharp transitions in beetle and/or environmental variables; and the occurrence of boundaries related to edges was apparently influenced by individual property management practices, site-specific characteristics such as development geometry, and spatial scale.
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