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Oecologia. 2006 Mar;147(2):335-47. Epub 2005 Oct 15.

An experimental assessment of biodiversity and species turnover in terrestrial vs canopy leaf litter.

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  • 1Crop and Food Research, Canterbury Agriculture and Science Centre, Gerald Street, Private Bag 4704, Lincoln, New Zealand. faganl@crop.cri.nz

Abstract

Forest canopies support diverse assemblages of free-living mites. Recent studies suggest mite species complementarity between canopy and terrestrial soils is as high as 80-90%. However, confounding variation in habitat quality and resource patchiness between ground and canopy has not been controlled in previous comparative studies. We used experimental litter bags with standardized microhabitat structure and resource quality to contrast the colonization dynamics of 129 mite species utilizing needle accumulations on the ground vs in the canopy of Abies amabilis trees in a temperate montane forest in Canada. Mite abundance and species richness per litter bag were five to eight times greater on the ground than in the canopy, and composition differed markedly at family-, genus-, and species-level. Seventy-seven species (57%) were restricted to either ground or canopy litter bags, but many of these species were rare (n<5 individuals). Of 49 'common' species, 30.6% were entirely restricted to one habitat, which is considerably lower than most published estimates. In total, 87.5% of canopy specialists had rare vagrants on the ground, whereas only 51.9% of ground specialists had rare vagrants in the canopy. Canonical correspondence analysis of mite community structure showed high species turnover through time and a high degree of specialization for early-, mid-, and late-successional stages of litter decomposition, in both ground and canopy mites. In addition, distinct assemblages of ground-specialist mites dominated each elevation (800, 1000, and 1200 m), whereas few canopy-specialist mites had defined elevational preferences. This suggests that canopy mites may have greater tolerance for wide variation in environmental conditions than soil mites. The degree of species turnover between adjacent mountains also differed markedly, with 46.5% turnover of ground species, but 63.4% turnover of canopy species between the two montane areas. While ground and canopy assemblages are similar in total biodiversity, it appears that local mite richness (alpha diversity) is higher on the ground, whereas species turnover between sites (beta diversity) is higher in the canopy.

PMID:
16228247
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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