Reduction of riparian arthropod abundance and diversity as a consequence of giant reed (Arundo donax) invasion
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The non-indigenous perennial grass, Arundo donax, is an aggressive invader of riparian areas throughout California and many sub-tropical regions of the world, and is hypothesized to provide poorer quality habitat for native wildlife in riparian systems. We sampled aerial and ground-dwelling insects and other terrestrial arthropods associated with Arundo, native willow vegetation (Salix spp.), and mixtures of the two vegetation types during two seasons to determine how Arundo influences invertebrate composition in a low gradient stream in central California. The total number of organisms, total biomass and taxonomic richness of aerial invertebrates associated with native vegetation was approximately twice that associated with Arundo vegetation, while mixed vegetation supported intermediate arthropod levels. Shannon-Weaver (Weiner) diversity associated with native vegetation stands was also higher than that of Arundo vegetation. Ground-dwelling assemblages did not show differences as great as aerial assemblages which are more critical to foraging avian species. These results indicate that vegetation type is a significant factor reducing the abundance and diversity of invertebrates in this, and presumably in many other riparian ecosystems where this invasive species has become a dominant component. Arundo invasion changes the vegetation structure of riparian zones and in turn, may increasingly jeopardize its habitat value for birds and other wildlife whose diets are largely composed of insects found in native riparian vegetation.
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