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Litter manipulation and the soil arthropod community in a lowland tropical rainforest

Research output: Contribution to Journal/MagazineJournal articlepeer-review

  • Oliver S. Ashford
  • William A. Foster
  • Benjamin L. Turner
  • Emma Sayer
  • Laura Sutcliffe
  • Edmund V.J. Tanner
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>07/2013
<mark>Journal</mark>Soil Biology and Biochemistry
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)5-12
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Tropical soil arthropod communities are highly diverse and provide a number of important ecosystem services, including the maintenance of soil structure, regulation of hydrological processes, nutrient cycling and decomposition. Experiments in temperate regions suggest that litter dynamics are important in determining the abundance, richness and community composition of soil fauna, but there is little information for lowland tropical forests. We used a long-term litter manipulation experiment (removing, doubling and control) in a neotropical forest to investigate the consequences of changing litter dynamics on the soil arthropod community. The abundance and biomass of arthropods were reduced significantly by the removal of litter, but not affected by litter addition. Litter manipulation had no effect on simple measures of taxonomic richness or diversity, but multivariate ordination techniques revealed a significant shift in arthropod community composition with the removal, but not addition, of litter. This suggests the overall importance of top-down controls on the arthropod community in this ecosystem, with bottom-up influences only important following the removal of large quantities of litter. Of the parameters measured, the faunal composition of experimental plots was best predicted by litter depth and the concentrations of total carbon and readily-exchangeable phosphorus (in order of importance), highlighting the influential role of soil chemical properties, in addition to the physical properties of litter, in shaping soil arthropod communities. Comparison with the results of a previous study of litter-dwelling fauna in the same litter manipulation experiment suggested that the soil and litter arthropod communities are influenced by different parameters: total carbon and litter depth for the soil community, but sodium and calcium for the litter community, although phosphorus was important in both environments. We conclude that arthropod community composition is controlled by different factors in the soil than in the litter and is affected by decreasing, but not increasing, depth of litter.