microhabitats

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.

Abstract: 
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.
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