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Forest macro-arthropods as potential indicators of ecosystem conditions in Western Idaho : an analysis of community composition, biological diversity, and community structure Public Deposited

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  • Adaptive ecosystem management is a new paradigm for managing federal forests which requires regular monitoring of ecosystem function and diversity to measure the effects of management. Managers need new strategies and tools to help them assess their progress in maintaining healthy, productive and biologically diverse forests. Biomonitoring of select forest macro-arthropod species can provide useful information on the effects of management on forest biodiversity and ecosystem function. The purpose of this study was threefold: (1) to inventory the macro-arthropod community and important environmental variables in the Bear Creek and Indian Creek study area within the Payette National Forest (PNF) in Western Idaho; (2) to compare measures of community composition, diversity, and structure in forest macro-arthropod communities between patches of different sizes and treatment; and (3) to assist PNF managers in their ecosystem management efforts by providing principles to guide the use of macro-arthropods as indicators of changing forest conditions. Transects with pitfall traps were used to collect macro-arthropods at 22 sites in the Bear Creek and Indian Creek study area during the summer of 1994. Five forest patch types in Abies grandis habitat types were sampled. Intact forest patches of 100 or more hectares, and large patches of 50-100 hectares, ranged in age between 50 and 250 years old with multistoried structure. Small patches up to 10 hectares were remnants or fragments of formerly intact forest isolated by logging. A plantation patch was 15 years old with patchy understory and forb cover. Clearcut patches had little or no overstory, and variable understory, and forb layers. At each transect, soil samples were collected and six environmental descriptor variables were analyzed according to patch treatment and patch size. These site descriptors were: basal area (ft²/acre); percent canopy cover for the overstory, understory; and forb layers; litter depth (cm), and percent soil moisture content. Differences detected using an ANOVA and T-tests are discussed in the Results section. Arthropod community composition, diversity, and structure were described according to relative abundance, and four measures of diversity. They were also described by membership in seventeen orders and/or super-families; ten functional groups; two disperser classes (long or short distance); and three species indicator classes. A total of 5455 macro-arthropod individuals, representing 17 orders and/or super-families and 219 species were collected in the Bear Creek and Indian Creek study area. While macro-arthropod fauna relative abundance did not vary significantly by treatment (ANOVA p<0.3), it did vary significantly by patch size (ANOVA p<0.03). Fauna relative abundance was 35% greater in clearcut patches than in large patches (T-test p<0.09). Fauna relative abundance in small patches was twice that of intact (T-test p<0.03) and large (T-test p<0.02) patches. Taxonomic diversity (number of genera/taxa) of beetle, ant, and bug taxa differed significantly according to treatment type(each ANOVA p<0.05). For the top four taxa (beetles, ants, spiders, and bugs), taxonomic diversity was highest in the plantation and clearcut patches. Ants and bugs had their highest taxonomic diversity in the plantation patch (separate T-tests p<0.05) while the taxonomic diversity of beetles was highest in clear-cut patches (T-test p<0.05). Beetle and ant taxonomic diversity varied significantly by patch size (each ANOVA p<0.05). For beetles and bugs, small patches were twice as diverse as intact patches (separate T-tests p<0.04) and 1.5 times that of large patches. Ant diversity was similarly distributed amongst the patch sizes, with significant differences between small and intact and between small and large patches (separate T-tests p<0.05). Of the four species diversity measures employed, only two, [alpha] and JK1 (both measures of richness), were found to vary significantly by patch treatment and size. Evenness (E) and the Shannon Diversity Index (H') failed to detect differences in the majority of tests. Fauna [alpha] and JK1 differed significantly by treatment type (each ANOVA p<0.05). Richness in clearcut patches was nearly twice in intact and large patches, followed by plantation and large patches. Fauna [alpha] and JKl also differed significantly by patch size (each ANOVA p <0.001), with small patch fauna twice as rich as that in large and intact patches (separate T-tests p <0.01). Of the top four functional groups, predators were the most abundant and had the highest taxonomic diversity (number of genera/functional group), followed by herbivores, fungivores and parasites. Predators and herbivores showed increasing taxonomic diversity with decreasing patch size, from intact to large to small (ANOVA p< 0.05). Similarly, predators and herbivores exhibited increasing taxonomic diversity with increasing levels of management: from intact and large to plantation and clear-cuts (ANOVA p< 0.05). Predators and herbivores were most numerous in the managed and small patches. Fungivore taxonomic diversity was also highest in the small and managed patches, though neither patch size nor treatment differences were significant (ANOVA p<0.85). Parasite taxonomic diversity differed by patch size with highest generic diversity in the small patches (ANOVA p<0.l) and by treatment type with generic diversity highest in plantations and clearcuts followed in order by large and intact patches (ANOVA p<0.l). Twice as many genera were long distance dispersers as were short distance dispersers. Relative abundance of long distance dispersers varied significantly by patch treatment and patch size (each ANOVA p<0.0l). Long distance dispersers were most numerous in clear-cut patches, followed in order by plantation, small, large, and intact patches. Relative abundance of short distance dispersers was not significantly different between treatment types (ANOVA p<0.20) but was significantly different between patch sizes (ANOVA p<0.0l). Short distance dispersers were most numerous in small patches followed by plantation, large, and intact and least numerous in clearcut patches. An indicator species analysis of 121 Bear Creek and Indian Creek genera (Dufrene and Legendre 1997), revealed sub-groups of species with 75 to 100 percent "perfect indication" or affiliation for specific patch types. When intact and large patches were pooled and analyzed against all treated patches (plantation and clearcut patches), a list of 36 genera with 75 to 100 percent "perfect affiliation" for intact or large patches was produced (MRPP p<0.05). Small patches had 42 indicators with 75 to 100 percent "perfect indication" when compared with the pooled intact and large patches (MRPP p<0.l). Conclusions Macro-arthropod community composition, diversity and structure did vary, usually significantly, by patch treatment and size. Useful measures of generic diversity include richness estimators [alpha], [beta], and JK1. Examination of taxonomic diversity was also useful, especially for the more mobile arthropods. Pitfall traps provided copious data on the structure of the community in regards to predators and herbivores. Pitfalls, however, did not provide much information about the status of fungivores and parasites in the various different patches. Another trapping method such as the berlaise funnel, would likely provide more information about those functional groups which are likely operating at a finer scale of resolution than that tested by the pitfall trap. Employing both methods would provide a much better assessment of the community of arthropods living on the forest floor. The indicator species analysis program also provided very useful lists of species which are affiliated with particular patch conditions. Taken together, these measures could be adopted for use by forest managers to allow them to assess and monitor the effects of a management regime on the structure and composition of macro-arthropod communities as part of a comprehensive adaptive management plan.
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