Losers, winners, and opportunists: How grassland land-use intensity affects orthopteran communities

Melanie N. Chisté, Karsten Mody, Martin M. Gossner, Nadja K. Simons, Günter Köhler, Wolfgang W. Weisser, Nico Blüthgen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Land use and corresponding habitat loss are major drivers of local species extinctions. Orthoptera as important grassland herbivores showed different responses to land-use intensity in different studies, and the susceptibility of this group remains unclear. We sampled annually for seven years 150 temperate grassland sites across three regions in Germany, for which land-use gradients were quantified as mowing, grazing, and fertilization intensity. We analyzed the effects of land-use intensity on orthopteran diversity and community abundance. To describe species-specific responses to environmental gradients, we employed a new approach termed "niche model," coupled with a randomization procedure, which is sensitive even for rare species for which trends may otherwise be difficult to detect. Based on abundance-weighted means for each species, we quantified the species' occurrence along land-use gradients and identified potential losers and winners of intensive land use. Overall, high land-use intensity negatively affected orthopteran diversity across years and regions, corresponding to decreases with high fertilization, mowing, and grazing intensity. Intensive mowing and grazing negatively affected abundance. Diversity and abundance increased with the time after the last cut. The niche model detected 15 of 29 Orthoptera species as losers of land use, showing significantly higher abundance in grasslands with low-intensity land use. Two species were winners of high land-use intensity, whereas the remaining 12 were assigned as opportunists. Most species were losers of high fertilization intensity, followed by frequent mowing. Grazing intensity was least detrimental at the species level. Omnivorous, herbivorous, and graminivorous species did not differ in their response to land-use intensity, whereas bryovorous/lichenivorous Tetrix species showed consistently negative responses to intensive land use. Our highly replicated, long-term and large-scale survey suggests that further land-use intensification threatens many Orthoptera and causes a consistent diversity loss. Low intensity of fertilization, infrequent mowing, and variable grazing will help to maintain a high diversity of orthopterans. The generality of our niche model approach advances studies on species' susceptibility in various study systems.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01545
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2016


  • Anthropogenic disturbance
  • Biodiversity exploratories
  • Effective shannon diversity
  • Feeding habit
  • Grasshoppers
  • Grassland management
  • Habitat niche
  • Insect herbivory
  • Land use
  • Mowing date
  • Orthoptera


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