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Kishor Kumar1, P. C. Joshi2 and M. K. Arya3

1-G. B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment & Sustainable Development,

Himachal Regional Center, Mohal-Kullu, 175 126, Kullu, Himachal Pradesh

2-Department of Zoology and Environmental Sciences,

Gurukul Kangri University, Haridwar, Uttarakhand

3-Department of Zoology, DSB, Campus College, Kuamun University, Nainital (Present address)

Corresponding author Email1:

Received: 04-04-2019                                                                                                    Accepted: 24-11-2019

Assessment of seasonal and attitudinal variation in population density and biomass of Beetles associated with a forest of the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (NDBR) was carried out during 1998-2000. All the selected sites fall within the buffer zone of NDBR and representing to Chamoli Garhwal administrative district of Uttarakhand State. Across the selected study sites a total of 14 species of Coleoptera belonging to 14 genera of 06 families were recorded during the study period. Among the recorded Coleopterans, Scarabidae and Chrysomelidae were the most dominant family with 4 species and 4 genera each followed by Meloidae and Coccinellidae with 2 species and 2 genera each and Elateridae and Curculonidae 01 species each respectively. The species richness of observed insects generally decreased with the increase of altitude of the study area. Across the years, it’s observed that the population density, abundance, and biomass of the Coleoptera are highly varied floral resources, seasonal patterns, weather, and climate of the study sites. Environmental variable i.e., relative humidity and temperature also play an important role in the fluctuation of density and biomass of Coleoptera. Generally, higher density and biomass values are recorded during the rainy season while minimum values of density and biomass are recorded during the winter season.

 Key words: Beetles, Attitudinal variation, Coleoptera, Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, Western Himalaya

Insects are among the creator of the biological foundation for all terrestrial ecosystems. They cycle nutrients, pollinate plants, disperse seeds, and maintain soil structure, fertility, biological controller, and major food source for other animals (Majer 1987). Soil insects are essential for the maintenance of healthy and productive agricultural ecosystems (Cock et al. 2012). Among the insects, the Coleoptera (beetles and weevils) is the largest order in the class Insecta. It’s estimated that about 15,500 species belonging to 104 families of 03 suborders of Coleoptera are recorded from India, constitutes about 5% of the world Coleoptera fauna (Sengupta & Pal 1998). The economic importance of various beetles are well known. More than 300 species in India are noted as pests of field crops, forest trees, timbers, and various stored products. Beetles have considerable ecological and biological importance in natural control of many crop pests and decomposition of plant and animal debris. Scavengers and wood-boring beetles are useful as decomposers and recyclers of organic nutrients. Predatory species, such as lady beetles, are important biological control agents of aphids and scale insects.

        Detailed studies on the impact of altitude, seasonality, habitat, resource availability and climatic variables on diversity, density, body size, and Biomass of Coleoptera and other groups of insects in different parts of world under different ecosystem have been undertaken (Evans & Murdoch 1968; Janzen 1973; Janzen et al. 1976, Vats & Singh 1978; Wolda 1978; Wolda 1980; Kaushal & Vats 1983; Vats & Mittal 1983; Kaushal and Vats 1984; Wolda & Broadhead 1985; Wolda & Broadhead1985; Lawton et al. 1987; Kaushal & Vats 1987; Wolda 1987; Wolda 1988; Morse et al. 1988; Kaushal & Joshi 1988; McCoy 1990; Kirk & Wallace 1990; Joshi 1996; Andow 1991; Lovei and Sunderland1996, Joshi & Sharma 1997; Pauvik et al. 1997; Wolda et al. 1998; Raw 1998; Kumar et al. 1996; Kruger and McGavin 1997; Gutierez and Menendez 1997; Joshi 1998; Didham et al. 1998; Bruhl et al. 1999; Smith et al. 2000, Stork et al. 2001; Jukes et al. 2002; Escobar et al. 2005, Joshi et al. 2008). Particularly, in the Indian Himalayan Region some studies has been focused on the taxonomic composition of Coleoptera (Atkinson 1974; Mani 1956; Singh 1963; Biswas 1995; Chandra 1995; Kumar et al. 1996; Ghosh et al. 2000; Mukhopadhyay et al. 2000; Kumar 2001, Mukhopadhyay and  Ghosh 2003; Mukhopadhyay  and Sengupta 2003; Chakraborty & Biswas 2003a; Chakraborty & Biswas 2003b, Mukhopadhyay et al. 2004 and; Chandra 2005, Sharma and Mansotra, 2015, Joshi, et al., 2016, Kumar, et al., 2016 and Sharma et al., 2019). Based on the synthesis of available information on the altitudinal and seasonal variation of density and biomass of Coleoptera particularly in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve is lacking. Realizing the various ecological importance of Coleoptera, the present study is an attempt to carry out an assessment of seasonal and altitudinal variation in population density and biomass of the Coleoptera community from NDBR.


Study area: The study was conducted in the Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve (NDBR), a World Heritage Site located (30o 05′-31o 02’N Latitude, 79o 12′-80o19’E Longitude) in the state of Uttarakhand, India. It has a large altitudinal range (1,800-7,817m asl) and covers an area of 6,407.03 km2 surrounded by Core, Buffer and Transitions zones. The unique topography, climate, and soil support diverse habitats, species, communities, and ecosystems. The climate is temperate and monsoonal with long winter short summer and rainy seasons. Conditions are generally dry with low annual precipitation and heavy rainfall during the winter season. Geologically, the area falls within the Greater Himalaya or Himadri System. The reserve harbors a high diversity of native and endemic flora and fauna (ZSI 1997, Samant et al. 1996, Samant 1999 and Kumar et al., 2001). Four study sites (i.e. Reni, Lata, Tolma and Dronagiri) were selected in the buffer zone of NDBR to cover the different altitudes, habitat types and levels of disturbances due to physical and anthropogenic pressure by the various migratory shepherd communities and their cattle. Each study site is having an area of 3 ha. An extensive and regular monthly collection of insects was made during the study (1998-2000). A detailed description of selected sites has been given in Table 1.

Sampling of Coleoptera: The population density of the Coleoptera was assessed by the sweep sampling method (Gadagkar et al. 1990). A random sampling of beetles was conducted at an interval of 30 days. Net sweeps were carried to sample the beetles. The nets used in systematic sweeping were made of thick cotton cloth with a diameter of 30cm at the mouth and a bag length of 60cm. The sampled beetles were transferred into jars containing Ethyl Acetate soaked cotton. These jars were brought to the laboratory and the beetles were stretched and pinned. The entomological pins numbering 1 to 20 were used according to the size of the specimen. These were oven-dried at 60ºC for 72 hours to preserve them and then set into wooden boxes and labeled according to their systematic position. The preserved beetles were subsequently got identified with the help of reference collections of Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), Kolkatta and Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi as well as taxonomic keys (Beeson 1941, ZSI 1995; ZSI 1997).

Assessment of Density: Diversity and Biomass of the Beetles: The population density of beetles was calculated by dividing the total number of individuals sampled from each site by total number of the sampling sites. The density of insects was expressed as the number of individuals/hectare. For the estimation of biomass collected individuals of the beetles were stretched, pinned and oven-dried at 600C for 72 hours. After oven drying each individual of insects was weighed along with an entomological pin in a single pan electric balance (0.01 mg accuracy). The average weight of the pin 8 (n=20) used in the specimen was subtracted to get the true biomass of the insects (Joshi 1989). Each sampling year was divided into 03 seasons i.e., winter (November, December, January, and February), summer (March, April, May, and June) and Rainy ( July, August, September, and October) respectively. During the survey records of certain abiotic (temperature, Humidity) and biotic (vegetation) parameters were also maintained to determine the effect on density, diversity and biomass of beetles.

Vegetational Composition: Detailed information on herb, shrub, and trees associated with each selected site was also collected to know the effect of vegetation resources on density, diversity, and biomass of different coleopteran species. Collected vegetation samples/ herbarium got identified with the help of plants taxonomist from GBPNIHESD, Kosi- Katarmal, Almora and standard keys (Samant et al.1996, Samant 1999).


  1. (Abiotic Factors): Variation in Temperature and Humidity: Realizing the importance of climatic variables for successful completion life cycles, maintaining density, diversity, and biomass of the coleopteran insects the temperature and humidity also recorded during the sampling of the The annual variation pattern of temperature and humidity during the study period (1998-2000) is described Fig. 1 & 2.
  2. Biotic Factors (Vegetation Composition): A total of 150 plant species, including 20 trees, 34 shrubs and 96 herbs were recorded from across the study sites and some of the key species are given in Table
  3. Species composition of Coleoptera: Across the selected study sites in NDBR, a total of 14 species of Coleoptera belonging to 14 genera of 06 families were recorded during the study Among the recorded Coleoptera, Scarabaeidae & Chrysomelidae were the most dominant family with 4 species and 4 genera each followed by Meloidae and Coccinellidae with 2 species and 2 genera each and Elateridae and Curculonidae 01 species each respectively. The high diversity of beetles was recorded from the low to mid altitudes and comparatively low diversity of beetles was recorded from the site located in higher altitude.
  4. Density and Biomass of Coleoptera: A strong monthly variation in density and biomass of beetles was observed among all the study sites in Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve during 1998-2000. Population density and biomass of Coleoptera are highly influenced by altitude, habitat, seasonal and climate patterns of the sampling During both, the year’s generally population density and biomass of Beetles were decreases with increased altitude. Higher density and biomass values of beetles were recorded from the Reni study sites located at the lowest altitude while low density and biomass values were recorded from the Dunagiri study site located at the highest altitude among the selected sites (Fig.3 & 4). This may be attributed to the availability of more plant food resources in study sites located in lower altitudes as compared to study sites around the higher altitudes.
  5. Seasonal variation in Density and Biomass of Beetles: Across the sampling years, the seasonal and climatic variables highly influenced both the density and biomass of the beetles among all the sampling sites. Generally higher values of density and biomass were recorded during the rainy season among all the study sites followed by summer and winter season (Fig.5 & 6). The higher values of density and biomass during the rainy season may be attributed to the availability of favorable climatic conditions and suitable food resources for the survival and growth of beetle species. Across the years, no insect activities were recorded during January and February due to adverse climatic condition for the survival of beetles (Fig.3 & 4).

Effects of Temperature and Humidity on density and biomass of Beetles: The monthly variation of temperature and humidity of each of sampling site is given in (Fig.1 & 2). Both of abiotic factors drastically influence the density and biomass of the Coleoptera.

During both the years’ population density of beetles were significant increases with the increase in the temperature and relative humidity of the sampling sites. Similarly decreasing trend of the density of biomass of Coleoptera was observed with decreasing the environmental temperature of study sites during the (Dec. Jan. Feb. March) winter months (Fig., 4, 5 &7&8).

The population density, abundance, diversity, and biomass of the Beetles (Coleoptera) are directly linked with the availability of food resources, habitat characteristics, altitude, seasonal and climatic conditions in a particular area. Different pioneer workers have worked on the diversity of the Coleopteran fauna   in the different areas of the Indian Himalayan Region. Mani (1956) reported 186 species belonging to 18 families of order Coleoptera from Nival Zones of North-East Himalaya. Singh (1963) reported 190 species belonging to 26 families from North-East Himalaya. Biswas (1995) reported 105 species belonging to 9 families of Coleoptera from the Western Himalayan Ecosystem. Mukhopadhyay and Ghosh (2003) reported 28 beetle species from the Sikkim state includes 8 species under family Gyrinidae and 20 species under family Dytiscidae. Mukhopadhyay and Sengupta (2003) reported 22 Coleopteran species belonging to family Hydrophilidae from Sikkim. Chatterjee and Biswas (2003) reported 25 species of Scrabid beetle (Coleoptera) from the Sikkim State. Kumar et al. (2007) have recorded 49 species of Scarabaeid beetles belonging to 4 families from Kullu Valley of Himachal Pradesh. Several other workers have reported the diverse number of Coleopteran species associated with different ecosystems of the world ( Kruger and McGavin 1997, Gutierez and Menendez 1997, Weslein and Schroeder 1999, Gordon and Cobblah 2000, Stork et al. 2001, Magagula and Samways, 2001).

In the present investigation altitude, wise variation in density and diversity of beetles was observed. Generally high density and diversity of Coleopteran have been reported from low to mid altitudes and comparatively low density and diversity of beetles were recorded from the study sites located in higher elevations (Table 2, Fig. 3 &4). A similar trend of altitudinal variation on density and diversity insect and related arthropods were also obtained by several other workers from different parts of the world. Janzen (1973) investigated the effect of altitude and seasonality on insects of Costarican secondary vegetation and revealed the numbers of insects and species above intermediate elevations show a general decrease, and intermediate elevations appear to have the highest insect density. Wolda (1987) reported insect species richness, as well as sample size decreased gradually with increasing an altitude over a 2200 m from the Republic of Panama. McCoy (1990) undertaken the studies on the distribution of insects along an elevation gradient (100 m and 1700 m) among the twelve open fields in the southern Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina, Virginia, and Maryland and also observed the higher peaks of insect richness and abundance between the mid-elevation sites. Samson et al. (1997) surveyed the patterns of Ant along an elevational gradient in the Philippines and found higher species richness and relative abundance at mid- elevations and declined sharply with increasing elevation. Smith et al. (2000) reported high influences of increasing altitude on population density, seasonal activity, morphology and body length and biomass of Nicrophorus investigator (Coleoptera: Silphidae) in southern rocky mountains of Colorado. Escobar et al. (2005) conducted studies on the altitudinal variation of dung beetle (Scarabaeidae: Scarabaeinae) assemblages in the Colombian Andes and found the high richness of Scrab beetles between the middle elevation. In the present study across the sites, the biomass of the beetles significantly increases with the increase of density (Fig. 3 & 4). A significant positive correlation between total density and biomass of beetles i.e. Reni (r = 0.93, P<0.01, n =12), Lata (r = 0.97, P< 0.01, n = 12), Tolma (r = 0.97, P < 0.01, n = 12) and Dronagiri (r = 0.98, P < 0.01, n = 12) have been recorded from all the study sites. This further reveals the importance of favorable seasonal, climatic, and biotic factors for survival, body growth which ultimately leads towards the healthy population and biomass. Similar, patterns of higher biomass values for insects have also been recorded by other workers (Kaushal and Vats, 1983; Begon, 1983; Joshi, 1989; Kruger and McGovin, 1997, Kumar 2001).

 In the present finding, high values of population densities and biomass of the beetles were obtained during the months of the rainy season (July, Aug. Sep. and Oct.) and minimum values of density and biomass are recorded during the months of (Nov. Dec. Jan. Feb.) winter season (Fig. 3-6). Our investigations also indicate a positive influence of annual climatic trend i.e. (season) on density and biomass of the Coleopteran population in a temperate region (Fig. 7 & 8). The favorable climatic conditions (optimum temperature and humidity) and high availability of proffered food during the rainy season also provide a suitable opportunity for the survival and growth of the majority of the beetle species. Similarly during dry winter season supports low density and biomass due to adverse climatic conditions (low temperature, dry/dormant vegetation) for the active survival and growth of beetles. Similarly, many other workers have also reported higher density and biomass of insects during the rainy season as compared tothe winter season from different habitat and climatic zones across the world representing the diverse ecosystems. Wolda (1980) reported the highest density and abundance of the Homoptera during the rainy season from Panama. Vats and Kaushal (1980) obtained the maximum density of insects during the rainy season (1.37 m-2) whereas no insects were recorded during the winter season. Gupta and Vats (1983 recorded the highest insect density during the rainy season (1.13 m2 first year and 1.50 m-2, second year) and minimum during summer season (0.41 m-2 first year and 0.56 m-2 during the second year). Kaushal and Vats (1983) obtained minimum values of density and biomass of insects either in winter (October- February) and the maximum values during the rainy season (late June-September) from a tropical grassland. Vats and Mittal (1983) studied insect population density in a tropical deciduous forest and reported density of insects varied from 0.11 m-2 to 2.51 m-2 and the peak value was recorded in the late rainy season. Wolda and Broadhead (1985) also reported a strong seasonal variation in the abundance of the Pscoptera community in the tropical forest of Panama. Kaushal and Johi (1988) obtained the maximum density of insects during the late summer season and minimum densities were during the dry winter season from the temperate grassland. Joshi and Sharma (1997) also reported the maximum insect density during the rainy season (1.3 m-2) and minimum during winter (0.1 m-2) in a cropland ecosystem. Wolda et al. (1998) also observed a strong seasonal variation among the weevil species in the tropical forest of Panama and obtained maximum abundance at the beginning of the rainy season. Richard and Windsor (2007) investigated the difference in arthropod abundance among 19 taxonomic groups between gaps and understory of lowland forest in Panama and obtained higher insect abundance of both herbivores and predators in gaps during the rainy season. They concluded that the seasonal changes in abiotic conditions and floral resource availability status may be a responsible factor. Recent investigations on seasonal pattern of density and biomass of beetles also indicated a high density of beetles during the rainy season (Arya & Joshi 2014, Arya et al. 2014).

It’s also recorded that the densities and biomass of Grasshopper species were highly influenced by the variation in temperature across the study sites. As already indicated that with increasing the temperature of sampling sites increases the density of beetles (Figs. 4 and 6) and Similarly significant effect of temperature on body size and biomass of beetles indicates the positive effects on optimum temperature on the growth of beetles due to available food resources (Figs. 5 and 7). The significant influence of various climatic variables on population density and body size of insect community also investigated by various other workers (Gupta & Vats 1983, Begon 1983; Sota et al. 1987; Kaushal and Joshi 1988; Nummelin 1996; Chaudhary and Alikhan 1990; Holloway et al. 2001, Kumar 2001; Karpakakunjaram et al. 2002 and Arya 2011). Thus the Insect population density, diversity and distribution are jointly regulated by the interaction of several biotic, and abiotic factors. The study suggests that the temperature, humidity, seasonality, availability of biotic resources are among the most potential factors which directly and indirectly influence the abundance, diversity, and biomass of beetles in Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve.


Authors are thankful to Director, G.B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development, Kosi-Katarmal, Almora, Uttarakhand for logistic support. Prof. B.D. Joshi, former Head & Dean, Department of Zoology and Environmental Sciences, Gurukul Kangri University, Haridwar highly acknowledged for his continuous help and support during the course of study. Residents of Reni, Lata, Tolma and Suraithota village are duly acknowledged for their support in various ways during the field survey.


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