Carrion is a dynamic and nutrient-rich resource that attracts numerous insect species that undergo succession due to the rapid change in the carrion resource. Despite this process being well-understood, few studies have examined resource change as a driver of carrion insect succession, and instead have focused on the effects of time per se, or on coarse, qualitative measures such as decay stage. Here we report on three field succession experiments using pig carcasses and human cadavers encompassing two winters and one summer. We quantified the effects of resource change (measured as total body score, TBS), carrion type, initial carrion mass, ambient temperature, and season on insect species richness and community composition. We found that all variables had an effect on different taxonomic or trophic components of the insect community composition, with the exception of initial carrion mass which had no effect. We found significant positive effects of TBS on beetle species richness and composition, while fly species richness was not significantly affected by TBS, but was by ambient temperature. TBS had a significant positive effect on all trophic groups, while ambient temperature also had a significant positive effect on the necrophages and predator/parasitoids. Our study indicates that resource change, as indicated by TBS, is an important driver of carrion insect species turnover and succession on carrion, and that TBS can provide information about insect ecological patterns on carrion that other temporal measures of change cannot.
Recent alarming losses of insects from agricultural landscapes in multiple countries around the world have brought into sharp focus the urgent need to identify ways to manage these landscapes to avoid further biodiversity decline. Identifying the drivers of insect declines, such as land use change, is critical to this effort. We examined ant communities at the interface between remnant vegetation patches and three adjoining farmland types (wheat crop, rested from cropping and restoration plantings) in a fragmented landscape in temperate Australia. We asked: do ant communities and occurrence of individual species differ between remnant patches and farmlands with more intensive farmland use (restoration plantings < rested farmlands < wheat crop)? We recorded 13,283 ants belonging to 102 species from 30 genera. Excluding 21 singletons, 27 species only occurred in remnant patches compared to ten species found only in farmlands. Ant community composition in wheat crop and rested farmlands significantly differed from their adjacent remnant patches and were more homogeneous. In contrast, ant communities from restoration plantings in farmland were not significantly different in composition from those in the adjacent remnant patch. The large, aggressive Australian meat ant (Iridomyrmex purpureus) showed significantly higher occurrence in the remnant patch than all farmland types, and we suggest that the absence of this strongly interacting species from farmlands may have contributed to biotic homogenisation. Our findings show that native vegetation provides crucial habitat resources for many ant species that are not provided by farmlands, and native plantings can, in some cases, ameliorate negative effects of farmland clearing over relatively short time scales (<7 years). Agricultural intensification that involves loss of remnant native vegetation or reduced revegetation will contribute to ongoing losses and changes to ant biodiversity in farming landscapes. However, replanting native vegetation can lead to rapid restoration, signifying a possible simple remedy to insect declines.