, Volume 164, Issue 1, pp 201–211 | Cite as

Trees as templates for tropical litter arthropod diversity

  • David A. DonosoEmail author
  • Mary K. Johnston
  • Michael Kaspari
Community ecology - Original Paper


Increased tree species diversity in the tropics is associated with even greater herbivore diversity, but few tests of tree effects on litter arthropod diversity exist. We studied whether tree species influence patchiness in diversity and abundance of three common soil arthropod taxa (ants, gamasid mites, and oribatid mites) in a Panama forest. The tree specialization hypothesis proposes that tree-driven habitat heterogeneity maintains litter arthropod diversity. We tested whether tree species differed in resource quality and quantity of their leaf litter and whether more heterogeneous litter supports more arthropod species. Alternatively, the abundance–extinction hypothesis states that arthropod diversity increases with arthropod abundance, which in turn tracks resource quantity (e.g., litter depth). We found little support for the hypothesis that tropical trees are templates for litter arthropod diversity. Ten tree species differed in litter depth, chemistry, and structural variability. However, the extent of specialization of invertebrates on particular tree taxa was low and the more heterogeneous litter between trees failed to support higher arthropod diversity. Furthermore, arthropod diversity did not track abundance or litter depth. The lack of association between tree species and litter arthropods suggests that factors other than tree species diversity may better explain the high arthropod diversity in tropical forests.


Tree specialization hypothesis Abundance Leaf litter Arthropods 



We thank L. Vitt, M. Yuan, R. Broughton, Y. Luo, L. Weider, and G. Wellborn for serving in our graduate committee. We thank S. Hubbel, R. Foster, R. Condit, and J. Wright for allowing access to the CTFS plot. We thank O. Dangles, O. Lewis, C. Riehl, J. Shik, L. Williams, and the ZEEB Journal Club for comments in this manuscript. We thank professor H. Schatz for mite identification. An Adams scholarship supported D.A.D. during the writing of this paper. This research was supported by NSF Grant No. 0212386 to M.K. O. Acevedo and H. Castañeda provided logistic support at BCI.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • David A. Donoso
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Mary K. Johnston
    • 1
    • 3
  • Michael Kaspari
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Department of ZoologyThe University of OklahomaNormanUSA
  2. 2.Museo de Zoología QCAZ, Escuela de Ciencias BiológicasPontificia Universidad Católica del EcuadorQuitoEcuador
  3. 3.Section of Integrative BiologyThe University of Texas at AustinAustinUSA
  4. 4.Smithsonian Tropical Research InstituteBalboaRepublic of Panama

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