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Leaf litter and the small‐scale distribution of carabid beetles (Coleoptera, Carabidae) in the boreal forest

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Management practices favoring conifers at the expense of deciduous tree species, and the eradication of deciduous trees, especially aspen Populus tremula, from managed forests have resulted in population declines in several species in Fennoscandia. In addition to species depending on decaying wood of deciduous trees, earlier evidence suggests that leaf litter, especially that of aspen, is favored by many carabid species. We ran a four‐year experiment in order to compare carabid assemblages of unchanged forest floor with artificially created leaf‐litter plots in central Finland. A total of 18 plots (5 m in diameter) were established in three forest stands without aspen a few kilometers apart. Each stand had 3 litter plots (litter added) and 3 control plots, Pre‐treatment samples were compared with those collected alter litter addition.

The litter addition affected the carabid‐assemblage structure by increasing the catches of some species and decreasing the catch of one species. The number of carabid species was similar in control and litter plots. The litter effect was smaller than variation among forest stands and year‐lo‐year fluctuations. There was a strong temporal constancy among the plots: ‘rich’ plots remained ‘rich’ from year to year and similarly, ‘poor’ plots remained ‘poor’.

The significant influence of leaf litter on carabid abundance can be attributable to both abiotic factors (microenvironmental conditions, especially humidity and temperature), and biotic ones (changes in niche structure, improved food supply). Leal litter seems to have an effect on carabid distribution patterns, and deciduous trees scattered among conifers are likely to be of importance on carabid fauna in boreal forests.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: ) and J. Niemelä, Dept of Ecology and Systematics, Div. of Population Biology, P.O.B. 17, FIN-00014 Univ. of Helsinki, Finland. – P. Punttila, Finnish Environment Inst., Nature and Land Use Division., P.O.B. 140, FIN-00251 Helsinki, Finland. – Y. Haila, Dept of Regional Studies and Environmental Policy, Univ. of Tampere. P.O.B. 607, FIN-33101 Tampere. Finland.

Publication date: August 1, 1999

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