NEW PAPER OUT! Testing the role of body size and litter depth on invertebrate diversity across six forests in North America

Probably the last pub for 2021 or our first for 2022. This paper in Ecology is technically my last “official” dissertation chapter and it feels fantastic to get it out. To provide some background, I started working on this project in the summer of 2014 and spent almost a year measuring >40000 mites, springtails, and spiders from six forests in North America. Using the data from these measurements and species identifications from Brittany, we tested three hypothesis about body size, litter depth, abundance and species richness. Our abstract sums up our results nicely…

“Ecologists search for rules by which traits dictate the abundance and distribution of species. Here we search for rules that apply across three common taxa of litter invertebrates in six North American forests from Panama to Oregon. We use image analysis to quantify the abundance and body size distributions of mites, springtails, and spiders in 21-m2 plots per forest. We contrast three hypotheses: two of which focus on trait-abundance relationships and a third linking abundance to species richness. Despite three orders of magnitude variation in size, the predicted negative relationship between mean body size and abundance per m2 occurred in only 18% of cases—never for large bodied taxa like spiders. We likewise found only 18% of tests supported our prediction that increasing litter depth allows for high abundance; 2/3 of which occurred at a single deciduous forest in Massachusetts. In contrast, invertebrate abundance constrained species richness 76% of the time. Our results suggest that body size and habitat volume in brown food webs are rarely good predictors of variation in abundance, but that variation in diversity is generally well predicted by abundance.

You can find an open access version of our paper by [CLICKING HERE]