European buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica L.) is an invasive woody shrub in deciduous forests of the Upper Midwest. Studies have suggested buckthorn invasion has negative effects on native plants, soil, and ecosystems, but its impacts on insects are largely unstudied. To test the impact of buckthorn invasion on ground-dwelling insects in forests of northeastern Iowa, pitfall traps were used to sample ground-dwelling insects at five sites four different periods from June to August 2013. Each site had three treatments: areas heavily infested with buckthorn, areas where buckthorn has not established, and areas where buckthorn had been removed within the past 2–10 yr. Most insects were identified to family and quantified; while ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) were identified to species and quantified. In total, 11,576 insects representing eight orders and 46 families were collected. Areas uninvaded by buckthorn had significantly greater insect abundance and taxonomic richness than areas invaded by buckthorn. Of the 948 ground beetles representing 40 species, abundance, species richness, and Shannon diversity indices were significantly lower in areas invaded by buckthorn compared with areas with no buckthorn. The 2,661 ants from 24 species had similar trends, but treatment differences were not significant because of high variability. These results clearly show a negative impact of buckthorn invasion on the abundance and taxonomic richness of ground-dwelling insects.
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Vol. 44 • No. 3