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Arctiid moth ensembles along a successional gradient in the Ecuadorian montane rain forest zone: how different are subfamilies and tribes?

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Abstract Aim 

We examined changes in the species diversity and faunal composition of arctiid moths along a successional gradient at a fine spatial scale in one of the world's hot spots for moths, the Andean montane rain forest zone. We specifically aimed to discover whether moth groups with divergent life histories respond differentially to forest recovery. Location 

Southern Ecuador (province Zamora-Chinchipe) along a gradient from early successional stages to mature forest understorey at elevations of 1800–2005 m a.s.l. Methods 

Moths were sampled with weak light traps at 21 sites representing three habitat categories (early and late succession, mature forest understorey), and were analysed at species level. Relative proportions were calculated from species numbers as well as from specimen numbers. Fisher's α was used as a measure of local diversity, and for ordination analyses non-metric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) was carried out. Results 

Proportions of higher arctiid taxa changed distinctly along the successional gradient. Ctenuchini (wasp moths) contributed more strongly to ensembles in natural forest, whereas Lithosiinae (lichen moths) decreased numerically with forest recovery. Arctiid species diversity (measured as Fisher's α) was high in all habitats sampled. The three larger subordinated taxa contributed differentially to richness: Phaegopterini (tiger moths) were always the most diverse clade, followed by Ctenuchini and Lithosiinae. Local species diversity was higher in successional habitats than in forest understorey, and this was most pronounced for the Phaegopterini. Dominance of a few common species was higher, and the proportion of species represented as singletons was lower, than reported for many other tropical arthropod communities. NMDS revealed a significant segregation between ensembles from successional sites and from forest understorey for all larger subordinated taxa (Phaegopterini, Ctenuchini, Lithosiinae). Abandoned pastures held an impoverished, distinct fauna. Faunal segregation was more pronounced for rare species. Ordination axes reflected primarily the degree of habitat disturbance (openness of vegetation, distance of sites from mature forest) and, to a lesser extent, altitude, but not distance between sampling sites. Main conclusions 

Despite the geographical proximity of the 21 sites and the pronounced dispersal abilities of adult arctiid moths, local ecological processes were strong enough to allow differentiation between ensembles from mature forest and disturbed sites, even at the level of subfamilies and tribes. Differences in morphology and life-history characteristics of higher arctiid taxa were reflected in their differential representation (proportions of species and individuals) at the sites, whereas patterns of alpha and beta diversity were concordant. However, concordance was too low to allow for reliable extrapolation, in terms of biodiversity indication, from one tribe or subfamily to the entire family Arctiidae. Phaegopterini (comprising more putative generalist feeders during the larval stages) benefited from habitat disturbance, whereas Ctenuchini (with host-specialist larvae) were more strongly affiliated with forest habitats.
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Keywords: Alpha diversity; Arctiidae; Ecuador; beta diversity; biodiversity indicators; montane rain forest; moths; successional gradient; taxonomic levels

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2006-01-01

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