Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 21, Issue 13, pp 3385–3410 | Cite as

Biodiversity of soil macrofauna in the New Forest: a benchmark study across a national park landscape

  • Daniel Carpenter
  • Peter M. Hammond
  • Emma Sherlock
  • Angela Lidgett
  • Kerry Leigh
  • Paul Eggleton
Original Paper


The New Forest National Park is a hotspot for biodiversity in the UK. A long history of grazing by ponies in the New Forest landscape has created a diverse mosaic of habitats that are of international significance. We investigated patterns of species diversity and composition across the New Forest landscape by sampling soil, leaf litter and ground macrofauna from woodland, grassland and heathland plots across the entire landscape. We used a spatially replicated design of hand sorted soil pits, Winkler extraction of leaf litter, and pitfall traps. We concentrated on diversity patterns of the following target groups: Coleoptera, Formicidae, Isopoda, Chilopoda, Diplopoda, Opiliones and Lumbricidae. The most striking difference in species assemblages is between wooded and open areas. Woodlands are the most diverse habitats and have a distinct assemblage, largely due to those leaf litter invertebrate species which are only present under a closed canopy. Open areas are less diverse, with diversity particularly low in the wet grasslands. However, the open areas do have a distinct fauna, especially in the wet and dry heaths which are home to a number of rare species, particularly of Formicidae. We discuss the potential conservation problems facing the New Forest and how these might affect soil macrofauna biodiversity in the future and conclude that climate change; over-grazing; and land use changes represent the largest threats. Although a relatively stable landscape which benefits from protection under UK law, changes in grazing intensity or management practices in the New Forest, particularly for some of the habitats of European importance (e.g. wet heathlands), could negatively affect soil macrofauna biodiversity. Climate change may also exacerbate biodiversity decline as a result of increased grazing intensity or changes in management.


Conservation threats Landscape ecology National parks Terrestrial macrofauna Soil biodiversity 



This work forms part of the ‘New Forest Quantitative Inventory’ and was funded by a grant from the NHM’s Annual Fund and the NHM Entomology Department’s Departmental Investment Fund. Thanks to David T. Jones, Barbara Smith, Jo Smith and two anonymous reviewers for comments on the manuscript. Thanks also to the following volunteers for helping with field work and for sample sorting: Keiron Brown, Kate Harrington, Cassius Morrison, Simon Powell, Samantha Ho, Judi Allette, Laura McCoy, Matthew Dickinson, Benjamin Lawrence, Nicky Nicoll, Anna Platoni, Heather Mikhail, Salma Mustafa, Ian Sosney and Gerardo Mazzetta.

Supplementary material

10531_2012_369_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (65 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 65 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Daniel Carpenter
    • 1
  • Peter M. Hammond
    • 1
  • Emma Sherlock
    • 2
  • Angela Lidgett
    • 1
  • Kerry Leigh
    • 1
  • Paul Eggleton
    • 1
  1. 1.Soil Biodiversity Group, Life Sciences DepartmentNatural History MuseumLondonUK
  2. 2.Aquatic Invertebrates Division, Life Sciences DepartmentNatural History MuseumLondonUK

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