Experimental verification of suction sampler capture efficiency in grasslands of differing vegetation height and structure.

Published online
29 Oct 2008
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
Journal of Applied Ecology

Brook, A. J. & Woodcock, B. A. & Sinka, M. & Vanbergen, A. J.
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Suction sampling is a popular method for the collection of quantitative data on grassland invertebrate populations, although there have been no detailed studies into the effectiveness of the method. We investigate the effect of effort (duration and number of suction samples) and sward height on the efficiency of suction sampling of grassland beetle, true bug, planthopper and spider populations. We also compare suction sampling with an absolute sampling method based on the destructive removal of turfs. Sampling for durations of 16 seconds was sufficient to collect 90% of all individuals and species of grassland beetles, with less time required for the true bugs, spiders and planthoppers. The number of samples required to collect 90% of the species was more variable, although in general 55 sub-samples was sufficient for all groups, except the true bugs. Increasing sward height had a negative effect on the capture efficiency of suction sampling. The assemblage structure of beetles, planthoppers and spiders was independent of the sampling method (suction or absolute) used. Synthesis and applications. In contrast to other sampling methods used in grassland habitats (e.g. sweep netting or pitfall trapping), suction sampling is an effective quantitative tool for the measurement of invertebrate diversity and assemblage structure providing sward height is included as a covariate. The effective sampling of beetles, true bugs, planthoppers and spiders altogether requires a minimum sampling effort of 110 sub-samples of duration of 16 seconds. Such sampling intensities can be adjusted depending on the taxa sampled, and we provide information to minimize sampling problems associated with this versatile technique. Suction sampling should remain an important component in the toolbox of experimental techniques used during both experimental and management sampling regimes within agroecosystems, grasslands or other low-lying vegetation types.

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