The effects of rodents on ground dwelling arthropods in the Waitakere ranges
King, Peter A
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The abundance and size classes of ground weta, cave weta, carabid beetles and prowling spiders were monitored in the La Trobe Forest Ecosystem Restoration Project, Karekare, West Auckland, where rodent populations had been reduced. These were compared with those in control sites, where the rodent populations had not been manipulated. The arthropods were sampled using pitfall traps set in young podocarp-broadleaf, mature kanuka and mature taraire forested sites, and each treatment site was matched with two control sites. Data was collected monthly from all nine sites from December to May, 2005-06. In kanuka forest, data collected during December to May, 2004-05 has also been used.Rodent populations and possum populations were monitored during the course of the study. Tracking tunnel indices indicated that rat numbers were lower in the treatment sites than the control sites during 2005-06, and that rats were low in abundance at the treatment sites, apart from the occasional spike in numbers, in the three years prior to the start of this research. Mice tracking indices were relatively high at some specific sites, mainly in spring and autumn. Evidence indicated that possum abundance was low in both the treatment and the control sites.Ground weta were more abundant at the kanuka treatment site than the control sites in 2005-06, but were rarely found in the podocarp-broadleaf and taraire forest types. Carabid beetles were trapped in greater numbers in podocarp-broadleaf and kanuka forest treatment sites in 2005-06, than in their respective control sites, and an increase in carabid beetle abundance was recorded between the 2004-05 and 2005-06 sampling seasons at the kanuka treatment site. Prowling spiders were more abundant at the podocarp-broadleaf treatment than at the control sites. Cave weta abundance at the podocarp-broadleaf and kanuka treatment sites was similar to their respective control sites. The arthropod abundance data from the taraire forest sites was confounded by many differences between the treatment and the control sites, which may have masked any effects caused by the suppression of rodent numbers at the treatment site.Ground weta and cave weta in the larger size classes appeared to be selectively preyed upon by predators, however, it was unclear whether rodents were entirely responsible because stoats and cats are also known to target larger arthropod prey, and their presence was not monitored.Ground weta in kanuka forest, carabid beetles in kanuka and podocarp-broadleaf forest and prowling spiders in podocarp-broadleaf forest are identified as potential indicators for monitoring the effects of rodent control in the Waitakere Ranges.This study was limited by a lack of knowledge of life histories and basic ecology of the arthropods. Further research at these sites is required to establish the long term population patterns of the arthropods.