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Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Aug 7;273(1596):1969-75.

Beetle assemblages from an Australian tropical rainforest show that the canopy and the ground strata contribute equally to biodiversity.

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  • 1Rainforest Cooperative Research Centre at James Cook University, Cairns, 4870 Queensland, Australia.


There remains great uncertainty about how much tropical forest canopies contribute to global species richness estimates and the relative specialization of insect species to vertical zones. To investigate these issues, we conducted a four-year sampling program in lowland tropical rainforest in North Queensland, Australia. Beetles were sampled using a trap that combines Malaise and flight interception trap (FIT) functions. Pairs of this trap, one on the ground and a second suspended 15-20 m above in the canopy were located at five sites, spaced 50 m or more apart. These traps produced 29986 beetles of 1473 species and 77 families. There were similar numbers of individuals (canopy 14473; ground 15513) and species (canopy 1158; ground 895) in each stratum, but significantly more rare species in the canopy (canopy 509; ground 283). Seventy two percent of the species (excluding rare species) were found in both strata. Using IndVal, we found 24 and 27% of the abundant species (n>or=20 individuals) to be specialized to the canopy and the ground strata, respectively, and equivalent analyses at the family level showed figures of 30 and 22%, respectively. These results show that the canopy and the ground strata both provide important contributions to rainforest biodiversity.

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