, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 411-422

Species richness of gall-forming insects in a tropical rain forest: correlations with plant diversity and soil fertility

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We tested two hypotheses to explain changes in species richness ofgall-forming insects. The first hypothesis proposes that gall-forming insectspecies richness increases as more potential host–plant species areavailable. The second hypothesis implies that soil fertility affects plantcolonization by gall-forming insects. Seven sites, representing strongdifferences in vegetation and soil were chosen at the Lacandona tropical rainforest region, Chiapas, Mexico. Overall, we found 1522 individual plantsbelonging to 340 different plant species. From this, we found gall-forminginsects on 737 (43.9%) plants and on 74 (22%) of total plant species. We found asignificant negative correlation between gall-forming insect species richnessand species richness of plants, which does not support the hypothesis that plantspecies richness is an important factor in generating the radiation ofgall-forming insects. Using phosphorus as an indicator of soil fertility, wefound the lowest number of plants with gall-forming insects and the smallestgall-forming insect load per individual plant in the more fertile soil(alluvial). In contrast, the highest number of plants with galls and the highestgall-forming insect load per plant were found at a savanna-like vegetationsite, where the poorest soil was recorded. These results did not support thesoil fertility hypothesis in terms of species richness, but did with respect toabundance of plants with galls.