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Arthropod abundance and diversity in a lowland tropical forest floor in Panama: the role of habitat space vs. nutrient concentrations

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Emma J. Sayer
  • Laura M. E. Sutcliffe
  • Rebecca I. C. Ross
  • Edmund V. J. Tanner
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>03/2010
Issue number2
Number of pages7
Pages (from-to)194-200
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Tropical forest floor characteristics such as depth and nutrient concentrations are highly heterogeneous even over small spatial scales and it is unclear how these differences contribute to patchiness in forest floor arthropod abundance and diversity. In a lowland tropical forest in Panama we experimentally increased litter standing crop by removing litter from five plots (L−) and adding it to five other plots (L+); we had five control plots. After 32 mo of treatments we investigated how arthropod abundance and diversity were related to differences in forest floor physical (mass, depth, water content) and chemical properties (pH, nutrient concentrations). Forest floor mass and total arthropod abundance were greater in L+ plots compared with controls. There were no treatment differences in nutrient concentrations, pH or water content of the organic horizons. Over all plots, the mass of the fermentation horizon (Oe) was greater than the litter horizon (Oi); arthropod diversity and biomass were also greater in the Oe horizon but nutrient concentrations tended to be higher in the Oi horizon. Arthropod abundance was best explained by forest floor mass, while arthropod diversity was best explained by phosphorus, calcium and sodium concentrations in the Oi horizon and by phosphorus concentrations in the Oe horizon. Differences in arthropod community composition between treatments and horizons correlated with phosphorus concentration and dry mass of the forest floor. We conclude that at a local scale, arthropod abundance is related to forest floor mass (habitat space), while arthropod diversity is related to forest floor nutrient concentrations (habitat quality).