The relation between forest structure and herpetofaunal community structure during forest succession

TitleThe relation between forest structure and herpetofaunal community structure during forest succession
Publication TypeThesis
Year of Publication2008
AuthorsHerrera, L
Number of Pages107
UniversityUniversity of Puerto Rico-Rio Piedras, Department of Biology
CitySan Juan
Accession NumberLUQ.1096

A primary goal of landscape ecology is to reveal the relationships between ecological processes and landscape patterns. Landscape patterns may control the ecological processes that shape species diversity and composition. However, there are few studies about how the species diversity of plants and soil millipedes vary with different parameters of landscape structure, especially in tropical habitats. Moreover, there is very little information about the effects of landscape variables on soil biota, such as millipedes, and the relationships between millipede diversity and plant diversity is poorly known, even though millipedes play an essential role in litter decomposition and plant nutrient cycling. Woody plants and soil millipedes were sampled systematically from 12 forest patches (24-34 years old), surrounded by a matrix of mixed urban use and pasture, in northeastern Puerto Rico. Patch spatial characteristics were obtained from aerial color photographs from year 2000 that were digitized into a GIS package. Woody plant species diversity and composition were related mostly to the forest patch attributes such as area and shape, while soil millipede species diversity and composition were related to the forest patch surroundings (e.g. vegetation corridors, patch isolation, and amount of forest in the matrix). Thus, soil millipede and plant species diversity and composition responded to different aspects of the landscape structure, probably due to their different operational scales (e.g. mode of dispersal, habitat discrimination). The species composition of both groups of organisms correlated with the distance to the Luquillo Experimental Forest, and there was more similarity in woody plant and millipede species composition among more closely spaced forest patches. A linear regression analysis showed that there was no correlation between species diversity of woody plants and soil millipedes in each forest patch. There was also no relationship between the species composition of woody plants and soil millipedes in a patch; indicating that soil millipedes are not specialist feeders on woody plant leaf litter. These findings show the importance of considering spatial relationships on a landscape scale when developing biodiversity theories and for the conservation and management of species diversity as well as land use planning, especially in areas of urban development.