Changes in arthropod assemblages along a wide gradient of disturbance in Gabon.
Basset Y., Missa O., Alonso A., Miller SE., Curletti G., De Meyer M., Eardley C., Lewis OT., Mansell MW., Novotny V., Wagner T.
Searching for indicator taxa representative of diverse assemblages, such as arthropods, is an important objective of many conservation studies. We evaluated the impacts of a wide gradient of disturbance in Gabon on a range of arthropod assemblages representing different feeding guilds. We examined 4 x 10(5) arthropod individuals from which 21 focal taxa were separated into 1534 morphospecies. Replication included the understory of 3 sites in each of 4 different stages of forest succession and land use (i.e., habitats) after logging (old and young forests, savanna, and gardens). We used 3 complementary sampling methods to survey sites throughout the year. Overall differences in arthropod abundance and diversity were greatest between forest and open habitats, and cleared forest invaded by savanna had the lowest abundance and diversity. The magnitude of faunal differences was much smaller between old and young forests. When considered at this local scale, anthropogenic modification of habitats did not result in a monotonous decline of diversity because many herbivore pests and their associated predators and parasitoids were abundant and diverse in gardens, where plant productivity was kept artificially high year-round through watering and crop rotation. We used a variety of response variables to measure the strength of correlations across survey locations among focal taxa. These could be ranked as follows in terms of decreasing number of significant correlations: species turnover > abundance > observed species richness > estimated species richness > percentage of site-specific species. The number of significant correlations was generally low and apparently unrelated to taxonomy or guild structure. Our results emphasize the value of reporting species turnover in conservation studies, as opposed to simply measuring species richness, and that the search for indicator taxa is elusive in the tropics. One promising alternative might be to consider "predictor sets" of a small number of taxa representative of different functional groups, as identified in our study.