Associations between wasp communities and forest structure: Do strong local patterns hold across landscapes?

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Abstract

Abstract  Forest structure and habitat complexity have been used extensively to predict the distribution and abundance of insect assemblages in forest ecosystems. We tested empirically derived predictions of strong, consistent relationships between wasp assemblages and habitat complexity, using both field assessments and vegetation indices from remote sensing as measures of habitat complexity. Wasp samples from 26 paired ‘high and low’ complexity sites in two forests approximately 70 km apart, were compared with normalized difference vegetation indices (NDVIs) derived from multispectral videography of the survey sites. We describe a strong unequivocal link between habitat complexity and wasp communities, the patterns holding over coarse and fine landscape scales. NDVIs were also excellent predictors of habitat complexity and hence wasp community patterns. Sites with greater NDVIs consistently supported a greater abundance and species richness, and a different composition of wasps to sites with low NDVIs. Using vegetation indices from remote sensing to gauge habitat complexity has significant potential for ecosystem modelling and rapid biodiversity assessment.

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