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Scale dependent diversity patterns in arboreal and terrestrial oribatid mite (Acari: Oribatida) communities


  • Zoë Lindo,

  • Neville N. Winchester

Z. Lindo ( and N. N. Winchester, Dept of Biology, Univ. of Victoria, PO Box 3020, Victoria, BC, Canada, V8W 3N5.


In naturally fragmented, isolated, or patchily distributed habitats that contain non-vagile organisms, we expect dispersal to be limited, and patterns of diversity to differ from similar, yet continuous habitats. We explored the alpha-beta-gamma relationship and community composition of oribatid mites (Acari: Oribatida) inhabiting spatially discrete canopy suspended soils, and compared the patterns of diversity with the continuous forest floor soils over two years. We explored dispersal limitation for oribatid mites in the canopy by using additive partitioning of species richness at multiple spatial scales. ANOSIM was used to demonstrate differences in oribatid mite community composition between the canopy and forest floor habitats over different sampling periods. Community composition of oribatid mites differed significantly between canopy and forest floor habitats, by season and yearly sampling period. Oribatid mite richness and abundance were positively correlated with substrate moisture content, particularly in the canopy. Richness and abundance of ground oribatid mites was greater in September than in June, a trend that is reversed in the canopy, suggesting canopy oribatid mite species may have altered life histories to take advantage of earlier moisture conditions. Alpha diversity of oribatid mites in the canopy was lower than the ground at all sampling levels, and not significantly different from a random distribution in either habitat. Beta diversity was greater than expected from a random distribution at the patch- and tree-level in the canopy suggesting dispersal limitation associated with physical tree-to-tree dispersal barriers, and limited dispersal among patches within a tree. Beta diversity at the tree-level was the largest contribution to overall species richness in both canopy and ground habitats, and was also greater than expected on the ground. These results suggest that factors other than physical dispersal barriers, such as aggregation, habitat availability, and environmental factors (moisture), may limit the distribution of species in both habitats.

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