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Keywords:

  • biodiversity;
  • habitat monitoring;
  • indicator species;
  • litter-dwelling beetle;
  • South-East Asia

Abstract

Pselaphine beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae: Pselaphinae) are cosmopolitan, species-rich, and yet poorly studied, particularly in the tropics. We sampled beetles in three types of primary forest and two types of disturbed forest habitats in eastern Thailand to assess the utility of pselaphine beetles as bioindicators of forest disturbance. We simultaneously measured leaf litter mass, soil moisture, soil acidity and canopy cover at each site to infer which environmental factors affect pselaphine beetle diversity and abundance. At each site, pselaphine beetles were extracted from ten 1 m2 samples of leaf litter and soil with Tullgren funnels. We sampled 1867 adult beetles representing six supertribes, 51 genera and 114 morphospecies; 7% of the genera and 92% of the species were undescribed. Forest types differed significantly in species richness, abundance, diversity and evenness. Primary forest had greater numbers of species and individuals, and higher diversity indices (H′). Teak plantation and secondary forest had substantially fewer individuals and species of pselaphine beetles. Species composition differed between primary and degraded forests. Canopy cover, soil moisture, and leaf litter mass positively correlated with beetle species richness and abundance. Leaf litter mass and soil moisture were the two most important factors affecting the diversity of pselaphine beetle assemblages. Among the 114 morphospecies collected, 43 morphospecies were specific to two or three habitats and 64 morphospecies were found only in a single habitat. Thus pselaphine beetles appear to have rather narrow habitat requirements and their presence/absence was correlated with environmental differences. These traits make pselaphine beetles a suitable bioindicator taxon for assessing forest litter diversity and monitoring habitat change.