Carrion Beetle assemblages in Woodland, Conifer and Unforested Habitats

Matthew Esh

Carrion beetle, Nicrophorus genus.

Fig. 1

Carrion beetles are important species in terrestrial ecosystems; they decompose vertebrate carrion which is important as it completes the nutrient cycle putting nutrients into the soil causing vegetation to flourish. The behaviour of carrion beetles especially Nicrophorus genus (fig.1) in the family Silphidae has been widely studied – they exhibit bi-parental care when their young have hatched – this is a very uncommon beetle behaviour. Their ecology however is relatively understudied despite their importance to ecosystem functions and applications in fields such as forensic entomology.

Carrion baited (with cheese and dead mice) pitfall trap in a patch of woodland.

Fig. 2

This research will determine carrion beetle assemblages in major UK habitats (native ancient woodland, non-native coniferous plantations and open grassland/heathland) using carrion baited (with cheese and dead mice) pitfall traps (fig.2) across the growing season. Study areas include Pembroke, Forest of Dean, Alice Holt, Thetford, Sherwood, Cannock Chase, Gisburn and Grizedale giving a wide geographical spread of the UK giving a basis for distribution  Environmental parameters including topography, aspect, soil type, pH, litter and vegetation cover will be measured in plots adjacent to the pitfall traps, to determine their influence on assemblage structure. I hypothesise that the assemblages differ temporally and spatially whereas species richness will be similar. This will be the first study to examine UK carrion beetles across a range of habitats adding to knowledge of their ecology and phenology nationally and in European temperate climates.