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Scale-dependent effects of windthrow disturbance on forest arthropod communities

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The effect of disturbance on local communities may operate within the context of the spatial landscape. We examined the scale-dependent effects of windthrow disturbance caused by a large typhoon on three arthropod communities in a temperate forest of Japan. Canopy arthropods were collected by beating foliage, forest-floor arthropods were collected by sweeping the vegetation, and flying arthropods were collected in Malaise traps. To assess the “functional spatial scale” at which arthropods responded to tree-fall disturbance, the gap rate was quantified at different spatial scales by sequentially enlarging the radius of a circular landscape sector in 10-m increments from 10 to 500 m. We then analyzed the responses of order richness and abundance to the gap rate for each arthropod community. The spatial scale of the significant best-fitting model, which was selected from the models fitted to the gap rate at stepwise spatial scales, was regarded as the arthropod-specific functional spatial scale. Arthropod order richness was not dependent on the gap rate. In contrast, arthropod order abundance depended significantly on the gap rate in many orders, but varied in the response direction and functional spatial scale. These order-specific, scale-dependent responses to tree-fall gaps could complicate interactions among organisms, leading to complex community organization. An understanding of the spatial processes that link the use of space by organisms with the spatial scale at which ecological processes are experienced is required to elucidate the responses of populations, communities, and biotic interactions to disturbances in a spatial landscape context.

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We thank the staff and graduate students at the Tomakomai Research Station, Hokkaido University, for support during the study, especially T. Hiura for valuable discussions, J. Kim for support with fieldwork, and H. Asano and K. Ono for the identification of arthropod specimens. We are also grateful to M.J. Toda and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments. Financial support was provided by the Japanese Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (nos. 09NP1501, 11440224, and 15207008).

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Correspondence to Toshihide Hirao.



Table 2 Percentage abundance of each guild in four dominant orders captured by beating, sweeping and Malaise trap

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Hirao, T., Murakami, M., Iwamoto, J. et al. Scale-dependent effects of windthrow disturbance on forest arthropod communities. Ecol Res 23, 189–196 (2008).

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  • Arthropod diversity
  • Environmental heterogeneity
  • Functional spatial scale
  • Scale dependence
  • Tree-fall gap