Agricultural intensification in western Europe has caused a dramatic loss of grassland surfaces in farmlands, which have resulted in strong declines in grassland invertebrates, leading to cascade effects at higher trophic levels among consumers of invertebrates. Grasshoppers are important components of grassland invertebrate assemblages in European agricultural ecosystems, particularly as prey for bird species. Understanding how grasshopper populations are distributed in fragmented landscapes with low grassland availability is critical for both studies in biodiversity conservation and insect management. We assessed the range and strength of spatial autocorrelation for two grasshopper taxa (Gomphocerinae subfamily and Calliptamus italicus L.) across an intensive farmland in western France. Data from surveys carried out over 8 yr in 1,715 grassland fields were analyzed using geostatistics. Weak spatial patterns were observed at small spatial scales, suggesting important local effects of management practices on grasshopper densities. Spatial autocorrelation patterns for both grasshopper taxa were only detected at intermediate scales. For Gomphocerinae, the range of spatial autocorrelation varied from 802 to 2,613 m according to the year, depending both on grasshopper density and on grassland surfaces in the study site, whereas spatial patterns for the Italian locust were more variable and not related to grasshopper density or grassland surfaces. Spatial patterns in the distribution of Gomphocerinae supported our hypothesis that habitat availability was a major driver of grasshopper distribution in the landscape, and suggested it was related to density-dependent processes such as dispersal.
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Vol. 41 • No. 5