In this study, I will be setting up sets of pitfall traps (preservative-filled cups in the ground that ground insects fall into) in ecosystems with very different habitat types, e.g. a forest with clustered tree species and shrub types, clearings, human structures, ponds.
This will not only give me a good estimate of the ground insect diversity, it will also allow me to analyse landscape patterns and networks. In other words, I will be studying how insects move around the landscape. Do some species become isolated in certain habitats? What habitats serve as corridors through which species can move? Are there any habitat combinations that foster a particularly active or biodiverse community?
Such a study provides important data for environmental management. It’s fallacious and oversimplistic to view a forest as a single habitat, because it’s an ecosystem comprising of many habitats that vary at a small spatial scale. An environmental manager absolutely needs to take this into account before approving any changes. Data accumulated from such studies allow a limited, but crucial, amount of prediction to be made for the effects of human modification, from logging to reforestation to construction of artificial lakes. The same is true for agricultural managers and farmlands: do hedgerows serve as habitats and corridors in otherwise inhospitable arable land? How does intercropping affect insect movements? What is the best solution to keep pollinator biodiversity up while reducing pest numbers?
My analysis will be focused on carabid beetles, most probably in a forest landscape (because I don’t want to get shot by a farmer while doing fieldwork), but other groups and ecosystems can be examined in due time, or by interested parties or universities/schools.