Influence of the herbaceous layer and litter depth on the spatial distribution of litter macrofauna in a forest plantation

Keywords: spatial distribution structure; mosaic distribution pattern; soil fauna; biodiversity; forest litter


The litter invertebrate community consists of species from different size, trophic and taxonomic groups. The distribution of the animal population of the litter horizon depends upon many factors, especially the content of the phytocoenosis, the projective herbaceous plant cover, moisture, litter thickness and the soil texture. This article analyses the variability of the main characteristics of litter invertebrate communities (total number, number of species, diversity according to the Shannon–Wiener and Pielou indices) on plots with different herbaceous plant composition and cover in plantations of Robinia pseudoacacia L. in the South steppe zone of Ukraine (territory of the “Tiligulsky” Regional Landscape Park). The taxonomic structure of the litter communities in the Robinia plantation was dominated by predatory groups of invertebrates (Carabidae, Aranea, Formicidae). The abundance of Julidae, Isopoda, Silphidae and Staphylinidae was relatively low. The studied forest plots were characterized by the simplified size structure of the litter macrofauna. The absence of species with body length of 16–20 mm and length over 20 mm indicates damage to the most significant trophic chains. The forest belt studied is in a highly disturbed condition, the plots being dominated by steppe species of herbaceous plants. The analyzed factors (diversity and extent of cover of herbaceous plants) do not determine the structure of the litter macrofauna community but affect it indirectly: a slight increase in the total number of invertebrates was observed in areas with minimal and maximum number of species of herbaceous plants. The relationship between the abundance of invertebrates and the percentage of herbaceous plant cover is manifested insignificantly. We noted a tendency for the number of invertebrate species to decrease along the gradient of herbaceous plant cover due to the concentration of dominant predatory species which exterminate other trophic groups of macrofauna.


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