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Environmental determinism of community structure across trophic levels: moth assemblages and substrate type in the rain forests of south-western China

  • R. L. Kitching (a1) (a2), A. Nakamura (a1), M. Yasuda (a1), A. C. Hughes (a1) and Cao Min (a1)...

Abstract:

Soil type may drive vegetation structure. In turn, the richness, identity and diversity of arthropod herbivores may be related to plant diversity through specific host plant relationships in a location. We test the hypothesis that the soil type (calcicolous vs alluvial soils) will drive the assemblage structure of a dominant group of arthropod herbivores: the moths. We used sampling sites in rain-forest fragments in south-western China around the Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Gardens (21°41′N, 101°25′E) to test this hypothesis. We used Pennsylvania style light traps to take point samples of macromoths and pyraloids from four sampling sites in forest remnants on a limestone geological base and four from alluvial-based forest. A total of 3165 moths (1739 from limestone-based and 1255 from alluvium-based forests) was collected representing 1255 species. The limestone-based sites showed statistically similar levels of species richness and other alpha diversity indices to the four alluvium-based site. Nevertheless the sites were clearly significantly different in terms of species composition. Analysis of contrasting similarity (‘beta’ diversity) indices suggested that there was ‘leakage’ between the two classes of sites when ‘rare’ species were emphasized in the calculations. We used an indicator value procedure to select species that most characterized this separation. We expect that these differences reflect associated changes in plant assemblage structure acting through the herbivorous habits of larval moths. Accordingly, in any assessment of landscape level diversity the nature of the substrate and its associated vegetation is clearly of great importance. This observation also has consequences for the design of conservation programmes.

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