Aspects of habitat selection and the influence of boundaries on some upland invertebrate communities
Aspects of the distribution and ecology of some surface-dwelling invertebrates were examined on different high-altitude vegetation types in the north Pennines, England. The influence of the boundary between habitats on the invertebrate community was also investigated, and the effects of habitat heterogeneity on invertebrate distribution were discussed. Spiders and carabids were sampled from the dominant vegetation types on the plateaux of three mountain summits (Cross Fell, Littie Dun Fell and Great Dun Fell) in 1991 using pitfall traps. Multivariate methods were used to classify and ordinate the sites based on their fauna and to assess the influence of the local environmental variation on the species distribution. Three spider assemblages were recognised based on their common species composition; two short Festuca grassland assemblages and a Nardus/Eriophorum assemblage associated with greater vegetation density. The results suggest that variation in the vegetation structure is the major factor influencing spider distribution on the summit plateaux, with slope and soil depth also contributing. The carabids appeared too widely distributed to assign to any specific vegetation types. The influence of the interface between different vegetation types on the spider and carabid fauna was sampled using pitfall traps in 1992-3. At the boundary between two highly contrasting habitats (sheep pastures and conifer plantations) an edge effect was found in both groups, where species richness was elevated. The major contribution to this increase was the mixing of both pasture and plantation species, species specific to the interface were few. The edge effect at this interface was narrower but larger in spiders than in carabids. At the boundary between two more similar habitats (grazed and ungrazed upland grassland) the edge effect was much reduced, species richness was not elevated, and the level of overlap between habitats was much wider. Edge permeability, structural similarity and altitude were considered the most important factors for the differences between boundaries studied. It is inferred that in the high altitude invertebrate community most species are widespread crossing boundaries between vegetation types regularly, though some species may have affinities to particular habitats for different aspects of their ecology. The implications that this study has for understanding the effects and impacts of habitat heterogeneity at the landscape level are discussed, such as invertebrate movement patterns, population dynamics and management aspects.