Cereal invertebrates, extreme events and long-term trends in climate.

Published online
21 Jan 2021
Published by
UK, Natural England & UK, Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
Content type

Duffield, S. & Morecroft, M. & Crick, H. P. Q. & Ewald, J. & Wheatley, C. J. & Aebischer, N. J.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
UK & England


The effects of climate change on the natural environment have been the subject of many studies in recent decades. However, there has been little research to determine whether climate change is having an impact on invertebrate communities within arable dominated agricultural systems, and if they do, what factors (if any) may confer resilience on species populations. This project was commissioned to investigate these issues and is one of a series of linked projects to develop the evidence base to inform climate change adaptation in the natural environment. The study examined changes through time in cereal invertebrate abundance in relation to trends in temperature and rainfall and also looked at the effects of extreme weather events on this abundance. The Sussex Study dataset used in this study provides a continuous 40 (1970-2010)-year time series collected at a single landscape-scale study site (Sussex, England) for a wide range of invertebrate taxa. Amongst the 28 invertebrate groups examined, 11 proved sensitive to extreme weather events but showed a very quick recovery, usually within a year after the extreme event. This may reflect adaptations to the ephemeral nature of the cereal ecosystem, with its annual cropping rotation. The long-term trends in some of the invertebrate abundances were related to trends in temperature and rainfall, indicating that climate change may be likely to affect them. However, the long-term increase in the intensification of cereal management, measured as the intensity of pesticide use, was perhaps more important in terms of explaining the long-term changes in abundance.

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