Invertebrate responses to the management of genetically modified herbicide–tolerant and conventional spring crops. II. Within-field epigeal and aerial arthropods

A. J. Haughton, G. T. Champion, C. Hawes, M. S. Heard, D. R. Brooks, D. A. Bohan, S. J. Clark, A. M. Dewar, L. G. Firbank, J. L. Osborne, J. N. Perry, P. Rothery, D. B. Roy, R. J. Scott, I. P. Woiwod, C. Birchall, M. P. Skellern, J. H. Walker, P. Baker, E. L. Browne, A. J. G. Dewar, B. H. Garner, L. A. Haylock, S. L. Horne, N. S. Mason, R. J. N. Sands, M. J. Walker

Abstract

The effects of the management of genetically modified herbicide–tolerant (GMHT) crops on the abundances of aerial and epigeal arthropods were assessed in 66 beet, 68 maize and 67 spring oilseed rape sites as part of the Farm Scale Evaluations of GMHT crops. Most higher taxa were insensitive to differences between GMHT and conventional weed management, but significant effects were found on the abundance of at least one group within each taxon studied. Numbers of butterflies in beet and spring oilseed rape and of Heteroptera and bees in beet were smaller under the relevant GMHT crop management, whereas the abundance of Collembola was consistently greater in all GMHT crops. Generally, these effects were specific to each crop type, reflected the phenology and ecology of the arthropod taxa, were indirect and related to herbicide management. These results apply generally to agriculture across Britain, and could be used in mathematical models to predict the possible long–term effects of the widespread adoption of GMHT technology. The results for bees and butterflies relate to foraging preferences and might or might not translate into effects on population densities, depending on whether adoption leads to forage reductions over large areas. These species, and the detritivore Collembola, may be useful indicator species for future studies of GMHT management.

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