Activity density of carabid beetles along an urbanisation gradient

Keywords: Coleoptera, Carabidae, abundance, urban-rural gradient, urban ecology, Italy


Several works have investigated the impact of urbanisation on carabid activity density using urban-rural gradients. Such works compared activity density recorded from green spaces located in different parts of a city and assigned to categories of increasing urban intensity, which poses two problems: (1) since the gradient is divided into categories, it is impossible to model continuous variations in biotic responses, and (2) sites representative of different urbanisation levels are not true segments of the same ecological continuum. To surpass these problems, we modelled variations in carabid activity density along an urban-rural transect within a single green space extending from the city centre of Rome to rural environments. Carabids were sampled by pitfall traps from sites distributed along the entire gradient. We used breakpoint regressions to model how (1) carabid activity density, (2) carabids/beetles ratio, (3) carabids/insects ratio and (3) carabids/arthropods ratio varied along the gradient. As already observed for various organisms in urban environments, we found that activity density of carabids and their contribution to the abundance of beetles, insects and arthropods, peaked in the middle of the gradient. This supports the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, according to which moderate urbanisation may favour diversity by increasing habitat heterogeneity.