Designing a cost-effective invertebrate survey: a test of methods for rapid assessment of biodiversity

Ian Oliver, Andrew J. Beattie

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    381 Citations (Scopus)


    We investigated three procedures that may lead to rapid and accurate assessment of epigaeic arthropod biodiversity. They are: (1) the identification of taxa whose diversity is correlated with that of others; (2) the identification of times and methods of sampling that produce estimates of diversity representative of more intensive sampling; and (3) the use of morphospecies inventories generated by non-specialists. Ants, beetles, and spiders were sampled from four forest types, in three seasons, using two collecting methods: pitfall trapping and extraction from litter. Specimens were sorted by a non-specialist to morphospecies and by specialist taxonomists to species. Richness (α-diversity) and turnover (β-diversity) were compared for different sampling regimes using morphospecies and species inventories. We found no significant positive correlations between ant, beetle, and spider species richness but there was a strong negative correlation between ant and beetle richness. For beetles alone, richness within the families Carabidae, Scarabaeidae, and Pselaphidae (i.e., avoiding taxonomically problematic families) was significantly correlated with richness within all other families. Assessment of turnover revealed that: (1) the four forest types contained significantly different assemblages of ants and beetles but not spiders and (2) the four forests were less clearly discriminated using species from the three beetle families Carabidae, Scarabaeidae, and Pselaphidae when compared to species from all beetle families pooled. Analyses of single sampling periods and methods revealed that summer and spring pitfall samples were most representative of more intensive sampling. That is: (1) the richness of ants and beetles in these samples was significantly positively correlated with the richness of all other samples and (2) turnover of beetles and ants among the four forests revealed by summer pitfall samples was similar to turnover using all samples. The three beetle surrogate families recorded by pitfall samples in spring, and to a lesser extent summer, showed significant correlations in richness with all other beetle species recorded in the same samples. However, the assessment of turnover was less accurate when only surrogate families were used. The most accurate and cost-effective assessment of turnover was generated by a summer pitfall sample in which data for ants, carabid, and scarab beetles were combined and analyzed as a single data set. Results were largely consistent regardless of whether species or morphospecies were used, which suggests that monitoring and assessment of terrestrial invertebrate biodiversity may be achieved by the careful use of morphospecies. Our results also suggest those invertebrate taxa, sampling methods, and sampling periods that yield the most consistent and reliable assessment of epigaeic invertebrate biodiversity in Australian temperate hardwood forests. However, empirical studies that follow the protocols discussed in this paper are urgently required in different environments. These studies may point the way to more representative monitoring and assessment of terrestrial biodiversity.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)594-607
    Number of pages14
    JournalEcological Applications
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 1996


    • alpha-diversity
    • ants
    • beetles
    • beta-diversity
    • biodiversity
    • cost-effective
    • inventories
    • morphospecies
    • sampling methods
    • spiders


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