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Habitat area affects arthropod communities directly and indirectly through top predators

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Both habitat area and predators are known to affect the diversity and composition of species that live in a locality. In addition, habitat area can influence the presence of predators, indirectly affecting the diversity of prey. Thus, habitat area may influence species diversity directly and indirectly through the presence of top predators. Here we examine the effects of habitat area and predators on the species richness and composition of a foliage living arthropod community in a fragmented complex of glades (small grassland patches within a forested matrix) in the Ozark Plateau, Missouri. We find that a top predator, the eastern collared lizard Crotaphytus collaris collaris, occurs primarily on larger glades. Glade area was positively correlated with arthropod diversity, but only after removing the effect of collared lizard presence. Moreover, collared lizards reduced overall arthropod richness, and shifted the dominance from predatory arthropods (e.g. spiders) and Orthopteran grasshoppers to Homopterans (planthoppers). This study shows the importance of accounting for variation in the presence of a top predator when studying the effect of landscape-level processes on species richness and composition.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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