Cereal fields are central to balancing food production and environmental health in the face of climate change. Within them, invertebrates provide key ecosystem services. Using 42 years of monitoring data collected in southern England, we investigated the sensitivity and resilience of invertebrates in cereal fields to extreme weather events and examined the effect of long-term changes in temperature, rainfall and pesticide use on invertebrate abundance. Of the 26 invertebrate groups examined, eleven proved sensitive to extreme weather events. Average abundance increased in hot/dry years and decreased in cold/wet years for Araneae, Cicadellidae, adult Heteroptera, Thysanoptera, Braconidae, Enicmus and Lathridiidae. The average abundance of Delphacidae, Cryptophagidae and Mycetophilidae increased in both hot/dry and cold/wet years relative to other years. The abundance of all 10 groups usually returned to their long-term trend within a year after the extreme event. For five of them, sensitivity to cold/wet events was lowest (translating into higher abundances) at locations with a westerly aspect. Some long-term trends in invertebrate abundance correlated with temperature and rainfall, indicating that climate change may affect them. However, pesticide use was more important in explaining the trends, suggesting that reduced pesticide use would mitigate the effects of climate change.
Keywords: Sussex study; agri-environment; agricultural intensification; drought; farmland; long-term study; rainfall; temperature.
© 2015 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.