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Biodiversity hanging by a thread: the importance of fungal litter-trapping systems in tropical rainforests

Biodiversity hanging by a thread: the importance of fungal litter-trapping systems in tropical rainforests
Biodiversity hanging by a thread: the importance of fungal litter-trapping systems in tropical rainforests
The exceptionally high species richness of arthropods in tropical rainforests hinges on the complexity of the forest itself: that is, on features such as the high plant diversity, the layered nature of the canopy and the abundance and the diversity of epiphytes and litter. We here report on one important, but almost completely neglected, piece of this complex jigsaw—the intricate network of rhizomorph-forming fungi that ramify through the vegetation of the lower canopy and intercept falling leaf litter. We show that this litter-trapping network is abundant and intercepts substantial amounts of litter (257.3 kg ha?1): this exceeds the amount of material recorded in any other rainforest litter-trapping system. Experimental removal of this fungal network resulted in a dramatic reduction in both the abundance (decreased by 70.2 ± 4.1%) and morphospecies richness (decreased by 57.4 ± 5.1%) of arthropods. Since the lower canopy levels can contain the highest densities of arthropods, the proportion of the rainforest fauna dependent on the fungal networks is likely to be substantial. Fungal litter-trapping systems are therefore a crucial component of habitat complexity, providing a vital resource that contributes significantly to rainforest biodiversity.
1744-9561
397-400
Snaddon, Jake L.
31a601f7-c9b0-45e2-b59b-fda9a0c5a54b
Turner, Edgar C.
eb83e88d-a250-4c65-9b1e-0113d778fdd2
Fayle, Tom M.
a4b1b9e4-5023-4460-9b22-167ab3b042dd
Khen, Chey V.
1dcebccc-45d1-488a-9abe-3f3ea3899d39
Eggleton, Paul
165575cf-831e-4553-9728-e61790896466
Foster, William A.
70203963-790e-408c-a632-f8e40c504d59
Snaddon, Jake L.
31a601f7-c9b0-45e2-b59b-fda9a0c5a54b
Turner, Edgar C.
eb83e88d-a250-4c65-9b1e-0113d778fdd2
Fayle, Tom M.
a4b1b9e4-5023-4460-9b22-167ab3b042dd
Khen, Chey V.
1dcebccc-45d1-488a-9abe-3f3ea3899d39
Eggleton, Paul
165575cf-831e-4553-9728-e61790896466
Foster, William A.
70203963-790e-408c-a632-f8e40c504d59

Snaddon, Jake L., Turner, Edgar C., Fayle, Tom M., Khen, Chey V., Eggleton, Paul and Foster, William A. (2012) Biodiversity hanging by a thread: the importance of fungal litter-trapping systems in tropical rainforests. Biology Letters, 8 (3), 397-400.

Record type: Article

Abstract

The exceptionally high species richness of arthropods in tropical rainforests hinges on the complexity of the forest itself: that is, on features such as the high plant diversity, the layered nature of the canopy and the abundance and the diversity of epiphytes and litter. We here report on one important, but almost completely neglected, piece of this complex jigsaw—the intricate network of rhizomorph-forming fungi that ramify through the vegetation of the lower canopy and intercept falling leaf litter. We show that this litter-trapping network is abundant and intercepts substantial amounts of litter (257.3 kg ha?1): this exceeds the amount of material recorded in any other rainforest litter-trapping system. Experimental removal of this fungal network resulted in a dramatic reduction in both the abundance (decreased by 70.2 ± 4.1%) and morphospecies richness (decreased by 57.4 ± 5.1%) of arthropods. Since the lower canopy levels can contain the highest densities of arthropods, the proportion of the rainforest fauna dependent on the fungal networks is likely to be substantial. Fungal litter-trapping systems are therefore a crucial component of habitat complexity, providing a vital resource that contributes significantly to rainforest biodiversity.

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More information

Published date: 23 June 2012
Organisations: Centre for Biological Sciences

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 359396
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/359396
ISSN: 1744-9561
PURE UUID: 6df1e6b5-aef6-45be-b3dc-ca9087655b80
ORCID for Jake L. Snaddon: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-3549-5472

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Date deposited: 30 Oct 2013 14:57
Last modified: 06 Jun 2018 12:23

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Contributors

Author: Jake L. Snaddon ORCID iD
Author: Edgar C. Turner
Author: Tom M. Fayle
Author: Chey V. Khen
Author: Paul Eggleton
Author: William A. Foster

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