Leaf litter arthropod responses to tropical forest restoration

Rebecca J. Cole, Karen D. Holl, Rakan A. Zahawi, Philipp Wickey, Alan R. Townsend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Scopus citations


Soil and litter arthropods represent a large proportion of tropical biodiversity and perform important ecosystem functions, but little is known about the efficacy of different tropical forest restoration strategies in facilitating their recovery in degraded habitats. We sampled arthropods in four 7- to 8-year-old restoration treatments and in nearby reference forests. Sampling was conducted during the wet and dry seasons using extractions from litter and pitfall samples. Restoration treatments were replicated in 50 × 50-m plots in four former pasture sites in southern Costa Rica: plantation – trees planted throughout the plot; applied nucleation/islands – trees planted in patches of different sizes; and natural regeneration – no tree planting. Arthropod abundance, measures of richness and diversity, and a number of functional groups were greater in the island treatment than in natural regeneration or plantation treatments and, in many cases, were similar to reference forest. Litter and pitfall morphospecies and functional group composition in all three restoration treatments were significantly different than reference sites, but island and plantation treatments showed more recovery than natural regeneration. Abundance and functional group diversity showed a much greater degree of recovery than community composition. Synthesis and applications: The less resource-intensive restoration strategy of planting tree islands was more effective than tree plantations in restoring arthropod abundance, richness, and functional diversity. None of the restoration strategies, however, resulted in similar community composition as reference forest after 8 years of recovery, highlighting the slow rate of recovery of arthropod communities after disturbance, and underscoring the importance of conservation of remnant forests in fragmented landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5158-5168
Number of pages11
JournalEcology and Evolution
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Applied nucleation
  • biodiversity
  • forest succession
  • litter fauna
  • macro-arthropods
  • soil fauna
  • tropical forest restoration


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