Patch size of forest openings and arthropod populations
- Cite this article as:
- Shure, D.J. & Phillips, D.L. Oecologia (1991) 86: 325. doi:10.1007/BF00317597
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Five sizes of canopy openings (0.016 ha to 10 ha) were established in the Southern Appalachian Mountains in early 1982 to examine the initial patterns of plant and arthropod establishment across a size range of forest disturbances. Vegetation standing crop after the first growing season was considerably higher in large than small openings in apparent response to greater resource release (e.g., sunlight) in larger openings. Woody stump and root sprouts were the dominant mode of revegetation in each patch size. Forest dominants such as Quercus rubra, Q. prinus and Carya spp. were less important as sprouters in openings than several minor forest components (e.g., Robinia pseudo-acacia, Acer rubrum, Halesia carolina and Cornus florida). Arthropod abundance and community composition varied across the size range of forest openings. Arthropods from the surrounding forest readily utilized the smallest canopy openings (0.016 ha). All feeding guilds were well represented in these small openings and herbivore biomass and load (mg of herbivores/g of foliage) were much higher than in larger patches. In contrast, arthropod abundance and species richness were significantly lower in mid-size than smaller patches. The relatively sparse cover and high sunlight in mid-size openings may have promoted surface heat buildups or soil surface/litter moisture deficits which restricted arthropod entry from the surrounding forest. Arthropod abundance and species richness were higher in large than mid-size patches. The greater vegetation cover in larger openings may have minimized the deleterious effects on arthropod populations. However, the absence of population increases among these arthropod species maintained herbivore loads at very low levels in large patches. Our results suggest that arthropod abundance and diversity in sprout-dominated forest openings are highly dependent on the extent of environmental differences between patch and surrounding forest.