Effect of habitat patch characteristics on abundance and diversity of insects in an agricultural landscape

Lenore Fahrig*, Ian Jonsen

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

74 Citations (Scopus)


The objective of this study was to test for general effects of patch size, patch isolation, disturbance frequency, and patch life span, on density and diversity of organisms. We sampled predominantly herbivorous insects in 31 alfalfa fields that varied in size, isolation, frequency of disturbance by cutting, and age (number of years planted in alfalfa). Effects on insect relative density and diversity were examined at three taxonomic levels: all insects, eight separate orders, and six legume-specialist weevil species. We found that (a) more isolated alfalfa fields had higher overall insect richness, (b) fields with higher disturbance frequency had lower overall insect richness, and (c) fields of intermediate age had highest insect richness. In some cases these patterns were reflected at lower taxonomic levels, but in many cases they were not. These results are important because they indicate that, although we cannot simultaneously tailor a landscape for each of thousands of species, we may be able to produce desired effects at a more general level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-205
Number of pages9
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Agro-ecosystem
  • Insect density
  • Insect richness
  • Intermediate disturbance hypothesis
  • Meta-population
  • Patch age
  • Patch isolation
  • Patch size
  • Resource concentration hypothesis

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