How does forestry affect biodiversity? A case study of arthropods in Ontario’s Algonquin Park

April 13, 2019

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Forestry is a global activity that can affect biodiversity through disturbance and fragmentation of habitats.  The phylum Arthropoda (e.g., insects, crustaceans, arachnids) represents a highly diverse taxon with species found in virtually all types of habitats including forests.  While there have been studies on the effects of forestry on arthropod diversity, important questions remain.

 

Smith et al. (2017) examined if and how disturbances associated with forestry may be driving arthropod diversity.  In particular, they were interested in the effects of temperature where forest areas that have been harvested may have higher temperatures and therefore, higher arthropod diversity.

 

The research team selected 12 sites within and around Algonquin Provincial Park, a park located in the eastern part of Ontario that is approximately 7,360 km2 in size.  Five pairs of sites were selected within the park - one that had been harvested in the past 25 years (“cut”) and another nearby site that had not been harvested (“uncut”).  They also selected one pair of cut and uncut sites located outside of the park.

 

A variety of collection methods for targeting small arthropods were used at the sites between April and November of 2011 and 2012. Air temperature loggers were also deployed and a GigaPan robot was used to capture characteristics of the collection locations via high-resolution panoramic photographs (see below for an example and more here).

 

Collected arthropods were processed and analyzed using DNA barcoding techniques.  The resulting data was used to generate Barcode Index Numbers (BINs), as estimates of species diversity, and to also calculate measures of phylogenetic diversity (PD), which incorporates evolutionary differences between taxa.

 

Smith et al. (2017) collected a huge diversity and abundance of arthropods from the sites.  An analysis of this diversity showed that BIN and PD were greater in cut compared to uncut sites; however, when controlling for the relationship between BIN and PD, the latter was lower and more clustered in the cut sites.  Phylogenetic clustering means that taxa were evolutionarily more closely related to one another in the cut sites.  In terms of air temperature, cut sites overall had higher temperatures that uncut sites which could explain the greater diversity in terms of BIN.

 

With this study, Smith et al. (2017) demonstrate that disturbances associated with forestry can have observable negative effects on biodiversity through loss of phylogenetic diversity, even as long as up to 25 years post-harvest.

 

Read the full article here (open access):

https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178568

 

Reference:

Smith MA, Boyd A, Chan A, Clout S, des Brisay P, Dolson S, Eagalle T, Espinola S, Fairweather A, Frank S, Fruetel C, Cortes CG, Hall J, Ho C, Matczak E, McCubbin S, McPhee M, Pare KA, Paris K, Richard E, Roblin M, Russell C, Snyder R, Trombley C, Schmitt T, Vandermeer C, Warne C, Welch N, Xavier-Blower C. Investigating the effects of forestry on leaf-litter arthropods (Algonquin Park, Ontario, Canada). PLoS ONE 12(6): e0178568.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0178568

 

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