Eur. J. Entomol. 106 (2): 241-252, 2009 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2009.032

Light intensity affects spatial distribution of Heteroptera in deciduous forests

Martin M. GOSSNER
Institute of Ecology, Friedrich-Schiller University, Dornburger Str. 159, 07743 Jena, Germany; e-mail: martin.gossner@uni-jena.de

Studies on the effect of varying light intensity on the spatial distribution of flying insect communities are rare, particularly in complex ecosystems like forests. The horizontal and vertical distribution of Heteroptera was studied at different scales in a large deciduous forest area, the "Steigerwald", in southern Germany. Diversity was affected by (1) vertical position: it was significantly higher near the ground than in the canopy of beech-dominated forests but similar in oak-dominated forests; within the canopy of beech-dominated forests, diversity was significantly higher in the upper than in the lower canopy of intermixed oak trees but similar in beech trees; (2) canopy cover, but in oak forests the response depended on the vertical position: increasing significantly close to the forest floor with decreasing canopy cover, but showing an opposite trend in the canopy; so that in sparse stands (little canopy cover) diversity was significantly higher near the ground, whereas where the forest canopy was medium or dense diversity was higher in the canopy. Moreover, community composition of Heteroptera near the ground differed from that in the canopy in both forest types and near the ground between stands in oak-dominated forest that had canopies of different densities. Results clearly indicate that light intensity is an important direct or indirect factor structuring Heteroptera communities. While in the canopy differences in leaf quality and microhabitats might be important, near the forest floor it is more likely to be the diversity of herbaceous plants.

Keywords: Light regime, diversity, Heteroptera, community structure, vertical and horizontal stratification, nemoral fauna

Received: November 24, 2008; Accepted: January 5, 2009; Published: May 20, 2009

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