Influence of spatio-temporal resource availability on mushroom mite diversity
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Although biodiversity in nature is of fundamental importance because it improves the sustainability of ecosystems, communities of microscopic organisms are generally excluded from conservation targets for biodiversity. Here, I hypothesize that mushroom mite species richness is correlated with both spatial (i.e., mushroom size) and temporal (i.e., longevity of fruiting bodies) resource availability. I collected fruiting bodies in an old-growth forest over 4 years to collect mites and insects inhabiting the mushrooms. Mites were collected from 47 % of the fruiting bodies and approximately 60 % of the mite species were collected only once. Mite species richness was significantly correlated with the availability of long-lasting fruiting bodies. For example, bracket fungi contained more mite species than ephemeral fruiting bodies. Insect presence was also correlated with mushroom mite richness, probably as phoretic hosts and food resources for predacious mites. On the other hand, mushroom size seemed to be less important; small fruiting bodies sometimes harbored several mite species. Although mite species richness was correlated with mushroom species richness, mushroom specificity by mites was not clear except for a preference for long-lasting fruiting bodies. Therefore, I suggest that a constant supply of coarse woody debris is crucial for maintaining preferred resources for mushroom mites (e.g., bracket fungi) and their associated insects (mycophilous and possibly saproxylic insects).