Differences in leaf-litter invertebrate assemblages between radiata pine plantations and neighbouring native eucalypt woodland

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Journal Article
Austral Ecology, 2009, 34 (4), pp. 368 - 376
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We investigated the structure, composition and environmental correlates of leaf-litter invertebrate assemblages in Pinus radiata plantations and in neighbouring native eucalypt woodland in the Jenolan Caves Karst Conservation Reserve, south-east Australia. Invertebrate assemblages of plantations were compared with remnant eucalypt woodland located well away from the influence of plantations to determine the direct effects of plantations as a result of habitat-replacement with a non-native plantation species. We also included in our comparisons edge habitat of eucalypt woodland located immediately adjacent to plantations. This unique edge habitat is exposed to the intrusion of large volumes of pine leaf-litter from plantations, which has the potential to affect indirectly invertebrate assemblages of surrounding woodland. We found that species richness of invertebrates was significantly lower in pine plantations compared with remnant eucalypt woodland. There was a complete absence of species from 12 invertebrate orders that were found in surrounding eucalypt woodland. A rich and abundant native plant understorey that provides increased habitat heterogeneity is the most likely explanation for the richer invertebrate assemblage found in remnant eucalypt woodland. The total abundance of all invertebrate taxa in pine plantations in winter was significantly higher than in remnant eucalypt woodland, pine-litter edges and pine-free edges. Plantations were characterized by particularly high abundances of species in two orders, Acari and Collembola. High abundances of acarine and collembolan species in plantations were associated with a decompositional environment represented by comparatively higher moisture contents and higher C : N ratios of both leaf-litter and soil, higher soil conductivity and lower soil pH. We suggest that implementation of The Plantation Biodiversity Benefits Score will be a fruitful way forward to assess the environmental benefits that can be gained from pine plantations in this region of south-eastern Australia. © 2009 Ecological Society of Australia.
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