How do beetle assemblages respond to cyclonic disturbance of a fragmented tropical rainforest landscape?
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Grimbacher, P.S. & Stork, N.E. Oecologia (2009) 161: 591. doi:10.1007/s00442-009-1399-5
- 136 Downloads
There are surprisingly few studies documenting effects of tropical cyclones (including hurricanes and typhoons) on rainforest animals, and especially insects, considering that many tropical forests are frequently affected by cyclonic disturbance. Consequently, we sampled a beetle assemblage inhabiting 18 upland rainforest sites in a fragmented landscape in north-eastern Queensland, Australia, using a standardised sampling protocol in 2002 and again 12 months after the passage of Severe Tropical Cyclone Larry (March 2006). The spatial configuration of sites allowed us to test if the effects of a cyclone and those from fragmentation interact. From all insect samples we extracted 12,568 beetles of 382 species from ten families. Beetle species composition was significantly different pre-and post-cyclone although the magnitude of faunal change was not large with 205 species, representing 96% of all individuals, present in both sampling events. Sites with the greatest changes to structure had the greatest changes in species composition. At the site level, increases in woody debris and wood-feeding beetle (Scolytinae) counts were significantly correlated but changes in the percent of ground vegetation were not mirrored by changes in the abundance of foliage-feeding beetles (Chrysomelidae). The overall direction of beetle assemblage change was consistent with increasing aridity, presumably caused by the loss of canopy cover. Sites with the greatest canopy loss had the strongest changes in the proportion of species previously identified in the pre-cyclone study as preferring arid or moist rainforest environments. The magnitude of fragmentation effects was virtually unaltered by the passage of Cyclone Larry. We postulate that in the short-term the effects of cyclonic disturbance and forest fragmentation both reduce the extent of moist, interior habitat.