Ground-Dwelling Arthropod Community Response to Livestock Grazing: Implications for Avian Conservation

Hayes B. Goosey, Joseph T. Smith, Kevin M. O'Neill, David E. Naugle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Terrestrial arthropods are a critical component of rangeland ecosystems that convert primary production into resources for higher trophic levels. During spring and summer, select arthropod taxa are the primary food of breeding prairie birds, of which many are imperiled in North America. Livestock grazing is globally the most widespread rangeland use and can affect arthropod communities directly or indirectly through herbivory. To examine effects of management on arthropod community structure and avian food availability, we studied ground-dwelling arthropods on grazed and ungrazed sagebrush rangelands of central Montana. From 2012 to 2015, samples were taken from lands managed as part of a rest-rotation grazing program and from idle lands where livestock grazing has been absent for over a decade. Bird-food arthropods were twice as prevalent in managed pastures despite the doubling of overall activity-density of arthropods in idle pastures. Activity-density on idled lands was largely driven by a tripling of detritivores and a doubling in predators. Predator community structure was simplified on idled lands, where Lycosid spiders increased by fivefold. In contrast, managed lands supported a more diverse assemblage of ground-dwelling arthropods, which may be particularly beneficial for birds in these landscapes if, for example, diversity promotes temporal stability in this critical food resource. Our results suggest that periodic disturbance may enhance arthropod diversity, and that birds may benefit from livestock grazing with periodic rest or deferment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)856-866
Number of pages11
JournalEnvironmental Entomology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 5 2019


  • activity-density
  • arthropod
  • livestock
  • rest-rotation
  • sage-grouse


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