Skip to main content Accessibility help

Evaluation of carabid beetles as indicators of forest change in Canada1

  • Timothy T. Work (a1), Matti Koivula (a2), Jan Klimaszewski (a3), David Langor (a4), John Spence (a5), Jon Sweeney (a6) and Christian Hébert (a3)...


Our objective was to assess the potential of carabid beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) as effective bioindicators of the effects of forest management at a Canadian national scale. We present a comparison of carabid beetle assemblages reported from large-scale studies across Canada. Based on the initial response following disturbance treatment, we found that carabid assemblages consistently responded to disturbance, but responses of individual species and changes in species composition were nested within the context of regional geography and finer scale differences among forest ecosystems. We also explored the relationship between rare and dominant taxa and species characteristics as they relate to dispersal capacity and use of within-stand habitat features such as coarse woody debris. We found no relationship between life-history characteristics (such as body size, wing morphology, or reported associations with downed wood) and the relative abundance or frequency of occurrence of species. Our results suggest that carabids are better suited to finer scale evaluations of the effects of forest management than to regional or national monitoring programs. We also discuss several knowledge gaps that currently limit the full potential of using carabids as bioindicators.

Notre objectif est d’évaluer l’efficacité potentielle des carabes (Coleoptera: Carabidae) comme bioindicateurs des effets de l’aménagement forestier à l’échelle canadienne. Nous comparons les peuplements de carabidés dans des études de grande envergure faites dans diverses régions canadiennes. D’après leur réaction initiale à la perturbation, les peuplements de carabes répondent de façon cohérente aux effets des perturbations, bien que les réactions des espèces individuelles et les changements de composition spécifique soient emboîtés dans le contexte de la géographie régionale et des différences fines entre les écosystèmes forestiers. Nous examinons aussi les relations entre les espèces rares et dominantes, de même que les caractéristiques des espèces, en ce qui a trait à la capacité de dispersion des espèces et des particularités des habitats au sein des peuplements forestiers, comme la présence de débris ligneux grossiers. Il n’existe pas de relation entre les caractéristiques biologiques des carabes (telles que la taille corporelle, la morphologie alaire ou l’association présumée avec le bois mort au sol) et l’abondance relative ou la fréquence des espèces. Nos résultats indiquent que les carabes peuvent mieux servir aux évaluations fines des effets des aménagements forestiers qu’aux programmes de surveillance à l’échelle régionale ou nationale. La discussion traite de plusieurs lacunes dans nos connaissances qui restreignent la pleine utilisation potentielle des carabes comme bioindicateurs.

[Traduit par la Rédaction]


Corresponding author

2Corresponding author (e-mail:


Hide All
Abildsnes, J., and Tommeras, B.A. 2000. Impacts of experimental habitat fragmentation on ground beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) in a boreal spruce forest. Annales Zoologici Fennici, 37: 201212.
Allegro, G., and Sciaky, R. 2003. Assessing the potential role of ground beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) as bioindicators in poplar stands, with a newly proposed ecological index (FAI). Forest Ecology and Management, 175: 275284.
Atlegrim, O., Sjoberg, K., and Ball, J.P. 1997. Forestry effects on a boreal ground beetle community in spring: selective logging and clear-cutting compared. Entomologica Fennica, 8: 1926.
Aukema, B. 1995. Flying for life: wing dimorphism in closely related species of the genus Calathus (Coleoptera: Carabidae). Ph.D. thesis, Wageningen Agricultural University, Wageningen, the Netherlands.
Baker, S.C., Richardson, A.M.M., Seeman, O.D., and Barmuta, L.A. 2004. Does clearfell, burn and sow silviculture mimic the effect of wildfire? A field study and review using litter beetles. Forest Ecology and Management, 199: 433448.
Bergeron, Y., and Harvey, B. 1997. Basing silviculture on natural ecosystem dynamics: an approach applied to the southern boreal mixedwood forest of Quebec. Forest Ecology and Management, 92: 235242.
Boer, P.J.den. 1981. On the survival of populations in a heterogeneous and variable environment. Oecologia, 50: 3953.
Bousquet, Y., and Larochelle, A. 1993. Catalogue of the Geadephaga (Coleoptera: Trachypachidae, Rhysodiddae, Carabidae including Cicindelini) of America north of Mexico. Memoirs of the Entomological Society of Canada No. 167.
Brais, S., Harvey, B.D., Bergeron, Y., Messier, C., Greene, D., Belleau, A., and Paré, D. 2004. Testing 412 Can. Entomol. Vol. 140, 2008 forest ecosystem management in boreal mixed-woods of northwestern Quebec: initial response of aspen stands to different levels of harvesting. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 34: 431436.
Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. 2003. Defining sustainable forest management in Canada; criteria and indicators [online]. Available at Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
De'ath, G. 2002. Multivariate regression trees: a new technique for modeling species–environment relationships. Ecology, 83: 11051117.
Digweed, S.C., Currie, C.R., Carcamo, H.A., and Spence, J.R. 1995. Digging out the “digging-in effect” of pitfall traps: influences of depletion and disturbance on catches of ground beetles. Pedobiologia, 39: 561576.
Duchesne, L.C., Lautenschlager, R.A., and Bell, F.W. 1999. Effects of clear-cutting and plant competition control methods on carabid (Coleoptera: Carabidae) assemblages in northwestern Ontario. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 56: 8796.
Dufrene, M., and Legendre, P. 1997. Species assemblages and indicator species: the need for a flexible assymetrcal approach. Ecological Monographs, 67: 345366.
Finch, O.D. 2005. Evaluation of mature conifer plantations as secondary habitat for epigeic forest arthropods (Coleoptera: Carabidae; Araneae). Forest Ecology and Management, 204: 2134.
Gandhi, K.J.K., Spence, J.R., Langor, D.W., and Morgantini, L.E. 2001. Fire residuals as habitat reserves for epigaeic beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae and Staphylinidae). Biological Conservation, 102: 131141.
Gaston, K.J. 1996. The multiple forms of the interspecific abundance–distribution relationship. Oikos, 76: 211220.
Goulet, H. 1974. Biology and relationships of Pterostichus adstrictus Eschscholtz and Pterostichus pensylvanicus LeConte (Coleoptera:Carabidae). Quaestiones Entomologicae, 10: 333.
Gutierrez, D., and Menendez, R. 1997. Patterns in the distribution, abundance and body size of carabid beetles (Coleoptera: Caraboidea) in relation to dispersal ability. Journal of Biogeography, 24: 903914.
Hanski, I. 1982. Dynamics of regional distributions: the core and satellite species hypothesis. Oikos, 38: 210221.
Harvey, B.D., Leduc, A., Gauthier, S., and Bergeron, Y. 2002. Stand–landscape integration in natural disturbance-based management of the southern boreal forest. Forest Ecology and Management, 155: 369385.
Heliola, J., Koivula, M., and Niemela, J. 2001. Distribution of carabid beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) across a boreal forest–clearcut ecotone. Conservation Biology, 15: 370377.
Hubbell, S.P. 2001. The unified neutral theory of biodiversity and biogeography. Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, and Oxford, United Kingdom.
Hunter, M.L. 1991. Coping with ignorance: the coarse filter strategy for maintaining biodiversity. In Balancing on the edge of extinction. Edited by Kohm, K.A.. Island Press, Washington, D.C. pp. 266281.
Kean, J., and Bigelow, N. 2004. Exploring rarity using a general model for distribution and abundance. American Naturalist, 163: 407416.
Klimaszewski, J., Langor, D.W., Work, T.T., Pelletier, G, Hammond, H.E.J., and Germaine, C. 2005 a. The effects of patch harvesting and site preparation on ground beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) in yellow birch dominated forests of southeastern Quebec. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 35: 26162628.
Klimaszewski, J., Sweeney, J., Price, J., and Pelletier, G. 2005 b. Rove beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae) in red spruce stands, eastern Canada: diversity, abundance, and descriptions of new species. The Canadian Entomologist, 137: 148.
Koivula, M., Kukkonen, J., and Niemela, J. 2002. Boreal carabid-beetle (Coleoptera, Carabidae) assemblages along the clear-cut originated succession gradient. Biodiversity and Conservation, 11: 12691288.
Kotze, D.J., and O'Hara, R.B. 2003. Species decline — but why? Explanations of carabid beetle (Coleoptera, Carabidae) declines in Europe. Oecologia, 135: 138148.
Kotze, D.J., Niemala, J., O'Hara, R.B., and Turin, H. 2003. Testing abundance – range size relationships in European carabid beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae). Ecography, 26: 553566.
Larochelle, A., and Larivière, M.-C. 2003. A natural history of the ground-beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) of America north of Mexico. Pensoft Publishers, Sophia, Bulgaria.
Larsson, S., and Danell, K. 2001. Science and the management of boreal forest biodiversity. Scandinavian Journal of Forestry Research, 16(Suppl. 3): 59.
Lemieux, J.P., and Lindgren, B.S. 2004. Ground beetle responses to patch retention harvesting in high elevation forests of British Columbia. Ecography, 27: 557566.
Lindenmayer, D.B., Margules, C.R., and Botkin, D.B. 2000. Indicators of biodiversity for ecologically sustainable forest management. Conservation Biology, 14: 941950.
Lindroth, C.H. 1961. The ground beetles (Carabidae, excl. Cincindelinae) of Canada and Alaska. Part 2. Opuscula Entomologica Supplementum 20. pp. 1200.
Lindroth, C.H. 1963. The ground beetles (Carabidae, excl. Cincindelinae) of Canada and Alaska. Part 3. Opuscula Entomologica Supplementum 24. pp. 201408.
Lindroth, C.H. 1966. The ground beetles (Carabidae, excl. Cincindelinae) of Canada and Alaska. Part 4. Opuscula Entomologica Supplementum 29. pp. 409648.
Lindroth, C.H. 1968. The ground-beetles (Carabidae, excl. Cincindelinae) of Canada and Alaska. Part 5. Opuscula Entomologica Supplementum 33. pp. 649944.
Lindroth, C.H. 1969 a. The ground-beetles (Carabidae, excl. Cincindelinae) of Canada and Alaska. Part 6. Opuscula Entomologica Supplementum 34. pp. 9451192.
Lindroth, C.H. 1969 b. The ground-beetles (Carabidae, excl. Cincindelinae) of Canada and Alaska. Part 1. Opuscula Entomologica Supplementum 35. pp. I– XLVII.
Luff, M.L. 1993. The Carabidae (Coleoptera) larvae of Fennoscandia and Denmark. Fauna Entomologica Scandinavica, 27: 1186.
Martikainen, P., and Kouki, J. 2003. Sampling the rarest: threatened beetles in boreal forest biodiversity inventories. Biodiversity and Conservation, 12: 18151831.
Mascanzoni, D., and Wallin, H. 1986. The harmonic radar: a new method for tracing insects in the field. Ecological Entomology, 11: 387390.
McCune, B., and Grace, J.B. 2002. Analysis of ecological communities. MJM Software Design, Gleneden Beach, Oregon.
McGeoch, M.A. 1998. The selection, testing and application of terrestrial insects as bioindicators. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 73: 181302.
McGeoch, M.A., and Gaston, K.J. 2002. Occupancy frequency distributions: patterns, artefacts and mechanisms. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 77: 311331.
Moore, J.D., Ouimet, R., Houle, D., and Camire, C. 2004. Effects of two silvicultural practices on ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) in a northern hardwood forest, Quebec, Canada. Canadian Journal of Forest Research, 34: 959968.
Niemelä, J. 2001. Carabid beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) and habitat fragmentation: a review. European Journal of Entomology, 98: 127132.
Niemelä, J., and Spence, J.R. 1994. Distribution of forest dwelling carabids (Coleoptera) — spatial scale and the concept of communities. Ecography, 17: 166175.
Niemelä, J., Langor, D, and Spence, J.R. 1993. Effects of clear-cut harvesting on boreal ground-beetle assemblages (Coleoptera, Carabidae) in western Canada. Conservation Biology, 7: 551561.
Niwa, C.G., and Peck, R.W. 2002. Influence of prescribed fire on carabid beetle (Carabidae) and spider (Araneae) assemblages in forest litter in southwestern Oregon. Environmental Entomology, 31: 785796.
Patterson, B. 1987. The principle of nested subsets and its implications for biological conservation. Conservation Biology, 1: 323334.
Peck, R., and Niwa, C.G. 2004. Longer-term effects of selective thinning on carabid beetles and spiders in the Cascade Mountains of southern Oregon. Northwest Science, 78: 267277.
Rainio, J., and Niemelä, J. 2003. Ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) as bioindicators. Biological Conservation, 12: 487506.
Rykken, J.J., Capen, D.E., and Mahabir, S.P. 1997. Ground beetles as indicators of land type diversity in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Conservation Biology, 11: 523530.
Spence, J.R. 1979. Riparian guilds as spontaneous question generators. In Carabid beetles: their evolution, natural history and classification. Edited by Erwin, T.L.. DR. W. Junk, The Hague, the Netherlands. pp. 525537.
Spence, J.R., and Niemelä, J.K. 1994. Sampling carabid assemblages with pitfall traps: the madness and the method. The Canadian Entomologist, 126: 881894.
Spence, J.R., and Volney, W.J.A. 1999. EMEND: ecosystem management emulating natural disturbance: Sustainable Forest Management Network Project report 1999-14. Sustainable Forest Management Network, Edmonton, Alberta.
Szyszko, J. 1974. Relationship between the occurrence of epigeic carabids (Coleoptera: Carabidae), certain soil properties, and species composition of a forest stand. Ekologia Polska, 22: 237274.
Szyszko, J. 1983. State of Carabidae (Col.) fauna in fresh pine forest and tentative valorisation of this environment. Treatises and monographs SGGWAR. Vol. 28. Warsaw Agricultural University, Warsaw, Poland. pp. 180.
Thiele, H.-U. 1977. Carabid beetles in their environment: a study on habitat selection by adaptations in physiology and behavior. Springer-Verlag, Berlin, Germany.
Ulrich, W., and Zalewski, M. 2006. Abundance and co-occurrence patterns of core and satellite species of ground beetles on small lake islands. Oikos, 114: 338348.
Volkov, I., Banavar, J.R., Hubbell, S.P., and Maritan, A. 2003. Neutral theory and relative species abundance in ecology. Nature (London), 424: 10351037.
Wallin, H., and Ekbom, B.S. 1988. Movements of carabid beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) inhabiting cereal fields: a tracing study. Oecologia, 77: 3943.
Wallin, H., and Ekbom, B. 1994. Influence of hunger level and prey densities on movement patterns in 3 species of Pterostichus beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae). Environmental Entomology, 23: 11711181.
Weber, F. 1996. Genetics and dynamics of a Carabus auronitens metapopulation in the Westphalian lowlands (Coleoptera: Carabidae). Annales Zoologici Fennici, 38: 8596.
Werner, S.M., and Raffa, K.F. 2000. Effects of forest management practices on the diversity of ground-occurring beetles in mixed northern hardwood forests of the Great Lakes Region. Forest Ecology and Management, 139: 135155.
Wikars, L.O. 1995. Clear-cutting before burning prevents establishment of the fire-adapted Agonum quadripunctatum (Coleoptera: Carabidae). Annales Zoologici Fennici, 32: 375384.
Work, T.T., Buddle, C.M., Korinus, L.M., and Spence, J.R. 2002. Pitfall trap size and capture of three taxa of litter-dwelling arthropods: implications for biodiversity studies. Environmental Entomology, 31: 438448.
Work, T.T., Spence, J.R., Volney, W.J.A., and Burton, P.J. 2003. Sustainable forest management as license to think and try something different. In Towards sustainable management of the boreal forest. Edited by Burton, P.J., Messier, C., Smith, D.W., and Adamowicz, W.L.. NRC Press, Ottawa, Ontario. pp. 953970.

Evaluation of carabid beetles as indicators of forest change in Canada1

  • Timothy T. Work (a1), Matti Koivula (a2), Jan Klimaszewski (a3), David Langor (a4), John Spence (a5), Jon Sweeney (a6) and Christian Hébert (a3)...


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed