Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 409–419 | Cite as

Grasshopper response to reductions in habitat area as mediated by subfamily classification and life history traits

  • César R. Nufio
  • Jeff L. McClenahan
  • M. Deane Bowers
Original Paper


Although the loss of species is often attributed to reductions in habitat area, heterogeneity and connectivity, species specific traits and taxonomic relatedness can be important in explaining which species groups may be most impacted by the fragmentation process. In this study, using urban grassland fragments within the Front Range of northern Colorado, USA, we quantified the degree to which grasshopper species numbers declined with reductions in habitat area. We then examined the degree to which subfamily grouping (Gomphocerinae, Melanoplinae, Oedipodinae) and variation in life history characteristics (body size, dispersal ability, feeding preference and juvenile emergence time) explained which grasshopper species groups might be most impacted by reductions in habitat size. Our results showed a strong species-area relationship for grasshoppers across the urban fragments. Grasshoppers in different subfamily groupings were found to respond differentially, with the Melanoplinae being least affected by reductions in habitat area, while the other subfamilies responded similarly and lost species at a higher rate. Species with different feeding strategies were also found to respond differentially, with forbivorous species being least affected by the reductions in habitat area, while the graminivorous and herbivorous (mixed-feeders) responded similarly and lost species at a higher rate. As Melanoplinae tend to be forb feeders, this may partially explain why the subfamily was not as affected by the fragmentation process as the Gomphocerinae and Oedipodinae (who tend to be grass and mixed-feeders, respectively). Species that differed in body size and dispersal ability did not display differential responses to reductions in habitat area.


Habitat fragmentation Grasshoppers Life history characteristics Species–area relationship Taxonomic affinity 



This project was supported by a National Science Foundation Grant (#1543813) and its supplemental REU, a Walker Van Riper research grant, a Bioscience Undergraduate Research Skills and Training internship from the University of Colorado, and a post-doctoral diversity fellowship from the Chancellor’s Office of the University of Colorado, Boulder. We thank land managers at Boulder, Jefferson, Denver and Larimer County Open Space, the home owners association at Niwot Estates and the South Suburban Parks and Recreation for support and access to their properties. We thank Sarah Hinners for access to her research sites and helpful insights and Elizabeth Studer for her work on insect mouthparts. We thank Elizabeth Thurston, Virginia Scott and Johanna Zeh for help processing specimens and thank Robert Guralnick, Christy McCain and two anonymous reviewers who provided valuable insight and improved this manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • César R. Nufio
    • 1
  • Jeff L. McClenahan
    • 1
  • M. Deane Bowers
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and University of Colorado Natural History MuseumUniversity of ColoradoBoulderUSA

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