Cover type, environmental characteristics, and conservation of terrestrial gastropod diversity in boreal mixedwood forests

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Abstract:

Terrestrial gastropods are important decomposers, herbivores, and prey items in forest systems and constitute a poorly understood element of forest biodiversity in Canada. We sampled terrestrial gastropod assemblages in northwestern Alberta, Canada, using board traps and forest floor sampling to examine their association with forest composition, structure, and environment (forest floor depth and moisture, coarse woody debris, understory vegetation cover) in four boreal mixedwood cover types: broadleaf (deciduous) dominated (DDOM), broadleaf (deciduous) dominated with coniferous understory (DDOMU), mixed conifer and broadleaf (MX), and conifer dominated (CDOM). The highest total gastropod abundance and richness occurred in the DDOM cover type. Furthermore, DDOM assemblages accumulated species more quickly (with sampling effort) and supported more gastropod species at higher levels of dominance than found in other cover types. The mix of coniferous and broadleaved trees influenced gastropod distributions within stands; however, associations observed between gastropod species and tree species differed among cover types, suggesting complex ecological contingency. For example, conifer basal area was an important driver of gastropod assemblage in DDOM and DDOMU forests, whereas broadleaf basal area was the most important driver in the CDOM forest type. We conclude that tree species mixture at a variety of scales sustains diversity of gastropod assemblages and that this understanding is significant for conservation of this taxon on mixedwood boreal forest landscapes.
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  • Published since 1971, this monthly journal features articles, reviews, notes and commentaries on all aspects of forest science, including biometrics and mensuration, conservation, disturbance, ecology, economics, entomology, fire, genetics, management, operations, pathology, physiology, policy, remote sensing, social science, soil, silviculture, wildlife and wood science, contributed by internationally respected scientists. It also publishes special issues dedicated to a topic of current interest.
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