New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2000) 24(1): 57- 67

Beetle assemblages of kahikatea forest fragments in a pasture- dominated landscape

Research Article
Richard J. Harris 1
Bruce R. Burns 2
  1. Landcare Research, Private Bag 6, Nelson, New Zealand
  2. Landcare Research, Private Bag 3127, Hamilton, New Zealand

Fragments of kahikatea (Dacrycarpus dacrydioides) forest provide a major opportunity for conservation of indigenous biodiversity in the heavily deforested landscape of the Waikato Basin, New Zealand. However, there is little documented information on what indigenous fauna survives in these fragments. Using Malaise traps set 20 m and 50 m into fragments and 20 m and 50 m into the adjacent pasture, we analysed the beetle (Coleoptera) assemblages associated with two such kahikatea forest fragments in the south Waikato Basin in order to determine the scope of biotic invasion by adventive species and use of the surrounding pasture by indigenous species. A total of 3706 beetles were caught, encompassing 37 families and 206 recognisable taxonomic units. The forest fragments had a sharply defined edge, and were dominated by indigenous beetle species, with only a few adventive species present. Beetle assemblages sampled in the surrounding pasture were numerically dominated by adventive species. Despite no indigenous plant species being present in the pastures, 55 indigenous beetles species (61% of total species sampled in the pasture) were recorded in this habitat. Traps in the pasture of greatest floral diversity caught the most indigenous beetle species. Beetles of the detritivore guild dominated the samples from forest, but in samples from pasture, detritovores and predatores were co-dominant. Indigenous herbivore species were poorly represented in samples from pasture compared to other guilds. The kahikatea fragments have a rich indigenous beetle fauna and represent important refuges in the pastoral landscape of the Waikato. Many indigenous species are utilising the pasture to some degree, although their abundance and species richness declines with distance from the forest edge. This may have implications for successful dispersal to new patches. Species that could potentially be used as indicators of kahikatea forest fragment community structure and its resistance to invasion are suggested.