Richardson B.A.

Separating the effects of forest type and elevation on the diversity of litter invertebrate communities in a humid tropical forest in Puerto Rico

RICHARDSON, BARBARA A.; RICHARDSON, MICHAEL J.; SOTO-ADAMES, FELIPE N. 2005. Separating the effects of forest type and elevation on the diversity of litter invertebrate communities in a humid tropical forest in Puerto Rico.. Journal of Animal Ecology 74, :926-936.

1. The primary effects of climatic conditions on invertebrate litter communities, and the secondary effects of different forest types, were distinguished by using the sierra palm as a control in a natural experiment along an elevational gradient in the Luquillo Mountains. These mountains have three well-defined forest types along the gradient, with the palm occurring as stands within each forest. 2. Palm litter samples were richer in nutrients, particularly phosphorus, than nonpalm litter, significantly so at higher elevations where leaching would have been expected. In nonpalm litter, mineral concentrations were significantly lower at higher elevations. 3. Animal abundance mirrored the pattern of mineral amounts and declined significantly in mid- and high-altitude forests, but did not decline with increasing elevation in palm stands. A pulse of post-hurricane litterfall was reflected in the high abundance of Coleoptera and Isoptera the following year. 4. The species richness of communities (Margalef’s index) declined with increasing elevation in nonpalm forest litter, but was remarkably similar in palm litter at all elevations. 5. Palm litter communities were more similar to each other (Sørensen’s index) than nonpalm communities, which became less similar with increasing elevation. 6. The differences observed from the lower slopes to the summits, in animal abundance, species richness and the uniformity of communities, are better explained by the contribution of forest composition to the chemical and physical nature of litter and forest heterogeneity, rather than to direct effects of temperature and rainfall differences.

The Bromeliad Microcosm and the Assessment of Faunal Diversity in a Neotropical Forest

The Bromeliad Microcosm and the Assessment of Faunal Diversity in a Neotropical Forest
Barbara A. Richardson
Vol. 31, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 321-336

The faunas of tank bromeliads were sampled over two years in three forest types at different elevations in the Luquillo Experimental Forest, Puerto Rico, and the diversity of their animal communities compared. Bromeliad plants behaved as islands in that, within forests, the species richness and abundance of their animal communities were significantly and positively correlated with increase in plant size. The amount of canopy debris they accumulated was similarly correlated with increase in plant size. Overall diversity was lowest in the dwarf forest, where plants were uniformly small. Animal communities were stable from year to year, and could be characterised for each forest type and for compartments within the plant. They showed a pattern of high dominance, which increased with elevation (McNaughton index 37, 54, and 73, respectively, for the tabonuco, palo colorado, and dwarf forest). Alpha-diversity for sites sampled in each year reflected net primary productivity (NPP) of the forest, declining with increasing elevation when animal abundance measures were used (jackknife estimates of Simpson's diversity index 6.54 & 11.04 [tabonuco], 3.53 & 6.22 [palo colorado], and 2.75 & 2.17 [dwarf forest]). Species richness over the two years, however, was highest in the intermediate palo colorado forest (187 species), compared to 146 and 88 in the tabonuco and dwarf forests, respectively. These figures were close to jackknife estimates of maximum species richness. The difference in species richness between tabonuco and palo colorado forests was significant in one year only. In addition to NPP, other factors, such as litter quality and the structural complexity of the habitat in the palo colorado forest, may have influenced species richness. The most abundant species in individual plants were also the most widely occurring, confirming known patterns of abundance and distribution in other functional groups. Diversity within bromeliad microcosms at different elevations supported known relationships between diversity, productivity, and habitat complexity along gradients and was not related to differences in the total bromeliad habitat available for colonization.

A Canopy Trimming Experiment in Puerto Rico: The Response of Litter Invertebrate Communities to Canopy Loss and Debris Deposition in a Tropical Forest Subject to Hurricanes

Richardson, Barbara A.; Richardson, Michael J.; Gonzalez, Grizelle; Shiels, Aaron B.; Srivastava, Diane S. 2010. A canopy trimming experiment in Puerto Rico: the response of litter invertebrate communities to canopy loss and debris deposition in a tropical forest subject to hurricanes. Ecosystems. 13: 286-301.

Hurricanes cause canopy removal and deposition of pulses of litter to the forest floor. A Canopy Trimming Experiment (CTE) was designed to decouple these two factors, and to investigate the separate abiotic and biotic consequences of hurricane-type damage and monitor recovery processes. As part of this experiment, effects on forest floor invertebrate communities were studied using litterbags. Canopy opening resulted in increased throughfall, soil moisture and light levels, but decreased litter moisture. Of these, only throughfall and soil moisture had returned to control levels 9 months after trimming. Canopy opening was the major determinant of adverse changes in forest floor invertebrate litter communities, by reducing diversity and biomass, irrespective of debris deposition, which played a secondary role. Plots subjected to the most disturbance, with canopy removed and debris added, had the lowest diversity and biomass. These two parameters were higher than control levels when debris was added to plots with an intact canopy, demonstrating that increased nutrient potential or habitat complexity can have a beneficial effect, but only if the abiotic conditions are suitable. Animal abundance remained similar over all treatments, because individual taxa responded differentlyto canopy trimming. Mites, Collembola, and Psocoptera, all microbiovores feeding mainly on fungal hyphae and spores, responded positively, with higher abundance in trimmed plots, whereas all other taxa, particularly predators and larger detritivores, declined in relative abundance. Litterbag mesh size and litter type had only minor effects on communities, and canopy trimming and debris deposition explained most variation between sites. Effects of trimming on diversity, biomass, and abundance of some invertebrate taxa were still seen when observations finished and canopy closure was complete at 19 months. This suggests that disturbance has a long-lasting effect on litter communities and may, therefore, delay detrital processing, depending on the severity of canopy damage and rate of regrowth.
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