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Keywords:

  • Disturbance;
  • Grazing;
  • Ground-dwelling arthropods;
  • Guild size;
  • Plant architecture
  • Cabrera (1963-1970) and Correa (1984)

Abstract. The Argentine Chaco is a mosaic of grassland and open forest habitats maintained by natural disturbance activities such as fire. Since the introduction of domestic livestock and other human activities, the balance of this mosaic has been significantly altered, both in plant species and structural composition. This study focuses on the impact of such changes on the diversity of ground-dwelling arthropods within semi-arid Chaco forest. Quantitative measures of habitat structure and arthropod diversity were taken in forest areas previously subjected to grazing, logging and ploughing. Results indicated that arthropod diversity was smaller on sites with reduced structural complexity, with marked changes in arthropod family composition. The habitat components relating to plant architectural and vertical diversity were particularly influential on arthropod diversity. The guild size ratio of predatory to non-predatory arthropods also differed significantly between habitats suggesting a change in the resource base available to some groups. The latter suggests a shift in the functional organisation of the forest ecosystem which could have important repercussions for the diversity of other trophic levels.