Invertebrates and the future of veg
Vegetation management has historically focused on composition and structure of the plant community. When there has been consideration of fauna, birds and other vertebrates have been the focus. Concern for vertebrate ecology has led to an emphasis on patch size and habitat connectivity because many vertebrates are sensitive to these features. In this presentation we will argue that invertebrates are crucial drivers of ecological systems and that managing for invertebrates requires different strategies, which necessitates a shift in the research agenda.
Insects and other invertebrates deliver key ecosystem services such as pollination, nutrient and water cycling, pest control and soil health. These processes are essential for the structural and functional integrity of the landscape. In an agricultural landscape, revegetation and remnant sites are hotspots for invertebrate diversity. We suggest that designing and implementing revegetation strategies that encourage the colonisation of a diverse and abundant invertebrate fauna will lead to better plant establishment, greater biodiversity, and greater prospects for sustainability. Similar benefits are possible with good management of remnants.
Our research examines a number of these invertebrate-mediated processes, in revegetated and remnant patches in agricultural landscapes. These include the effect of soil fauna on water infiltration, the effect of soil communities on seedling growth, the impact of nutrient enrichment on litter fauna and plant communities, and the influence of the plant community on canopy insects. This research is being supported by the Water for a Healthy Country Flagship and the NSW Environment Trust, in collaboration with Greening Australia, DPI Victoria and NSW Department of Environment and Conservation.