Influence of Forest Fragment Composition and Structure on Ground-Dwelling Arthropod Communities
Fragmentation is the process of reducing habitat area while increasing the number and isolations of habitat patches. While much of Indiana’s land area was covered with contiguous forests, now remaining forests are heavily fragmented. This especially true in northeastern Indiana where agriculture is the dominant land use. The loss of functional forest in northeast Indiana could lead to a loss of biodiversity on a large scale. Ground-dwelling arthropods have been used frequently as bioindicator species of forest health. I characterized ten typical northeast Indiana forest plant communities and inventoried ground-dwelling arthropod communities within those same forests. Plant community and environmental heterogeneity within forests were used to assess forest complexity, and ground-dwelling arthropod communities were compared to individual measures of heterogeneity. Differences in forest plant communities and heterogeneity were found between studied properties. However, arthropod communities were similar across all properties. Plant community composition was found to be the most influential factor on arthropod communities. These findings suggest that the network of small forest patches in northeast Indiana may be functioning at a high level, and that low-intensity management is a viable management style within the area.
Marshall, Purdue University.
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