Plant species composition and local habitat conditions as primary determinants of terrestrial arthropod assemblages

Cynthia Tobisch, Sandra Rojas-Botero, Johannes Uhler, Jörg Müller, Johannes Kollmann, Christoph Moning, Martin Brändle, Martin M. Gossner, Sarah Redlich, Jie Zhang, Ingolf Steffan-Dewenter, Caryl Benjamin, Jana Englmeier, Ute Fricke, Cristina Ganuza, Maria Haensel, Rebekka Riebl, Lars Uphus, Jörg Ewald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Arthropods respond to vegetation in multiple ways since plants provide habitat and food resources and indicate local abiotic conditions. However, the relative importance of these factors for arthropod assemblages is less well understood. We aimed to disentangle the effects of plant species composition and environmental drivers on arthropod taxonomic composition and to assess which aspects of vegetation contribute to the relationships between plant and arthropod assemblages. In a multi-scale field study in Southern Germany, we sampled vascular plants and terrestrial arthropods in typical habitats of temperate landscapes. We compared independent and shared effects of vegetation and abiotic predictors on arthropod composition distinguishing between four large orders (Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, Hymenoptera, Diptera), and five functional groups (herbivores, pollinators, predators, parasitoids, detritivores). Across all investigated groups, plant species composition explained the major fraction of variation in arthropod composition, while land-cover composition was another important predictor. Moreover, the local habitat conditions depicted by the indicator values of the plant communities were more important for arthropod composition than trophic relationships between certain plant and arthropod species. Among trophic groups, predators showed the strongest response to plant species composition, while responses of herbivores and pollinators were stronger than those of parasitoids and detritivores. Our results highlight the relevance of plant community composition for terrestrial arthropod assemblages across multiple taxa and trophic levels and emphasize the value of plants as a proxy for characterizing habitat conditions that are hardly accessible to direct environmental measurements.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)813-825
Number of pages13
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2023


  • Community ecology
  • Ellenberg indicator values
  • Functional groups
  • Plant–insect interactions
  • Species-environment relationships


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