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Breckland Ground Beetles

The Brecks are home to a unique assemblage of ground beetles associated with disturbed habitats, notably the arable brecks.

The Wormwood moonshiner(Amara fusca), Brush-thighed seed-eater (Harpalus froelichii), Set-aside downy-back (Ophonus laticollis), Bradycellus csikii, Harpalus pumilus and Harpalus smaragdinus are all scarce beetles who count the Brecks as a stronghold for their populations. 

Set-aside downy-back beetle (Ophonus laticollis) © John Walters

Set-aside downy-back beetle (Ophonus laticollis) © John Walters

The value of the Brecks lies in the underlying chalk overlain by free-draining and low nutrient sandy soils, as well as a semi-continental climate causing drought conditions. This supports a mosaic of heathland and grasslands on soils ranging from acidic through to calcareous. A dynamic landscape has developed due to changing patterns in low intensity agriculture, extensive grazing systems and rabbit warrening, with periodic disturbance and abandonment supporting early successional habitats. Central to the region’s value for many ground beetles was the regular creation of bare ground associated with the periodic cultivation of heathland and long periods of fallowing.

However, modern agriculture has reduced the extent of disturbance in this nationally important region for biodiversity, with cropping of arable margins, soil improvement, afforestation and changes in livestock management. The subsequent stabilisation and homogenisation of the landscape threatens the unique assemblage of ground beetles associated with the region. 

Buglife were contracted by Natural England to investigate potential conservation management tools for these six scarce ground beetles. This was achieved by mapping distributions and key sites, reviewing the current knowledge of habitat management benefiting the species in the Brecks and providing new advice and suggestions for further research.

The report can be downloaded here

This project was supported by funding and advice from Natural England

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