Diversity and structure of Metrosideros polymorpha canopy arthropod communities across space and time
Tielens, Elske Karolien
Gruner, Daniel S
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Global biodiversity is under pressure from climate change, habitat fragmentation and other anthropogenic change, and our ability to predict biodiversity responses to change requires a better understanding of the processes that drive diversity and structure local communities. However, quantifying these processes has proven to be challenging for multiple reasons; diversity is multidimensional, and both diversity and the processes that generate it vary across scale. In this dissertation, I examine temporal and spatial patterns in community structure to test hypotheses about the drivers of local diversity and composition in communities of varying age, focusing on arthropod communities associated with the native tree Metrosideros polymorpha on the Hawaiian Islands. Analysis of Hemiptera (true bug) communities reveals a temporal pattern in community structure, where young substrate communities were variable in species composition and beta dispersion decreased with substrate age, indicating convergence. However, substrate age did not correlate with community dissimilarity in a directional way. Similarly, geographic distance did not correlate with compositional dissimilarity, suggesting a lack of dispersal limitation. I confirmed this result by examining connections between arthropod communities in a historically fragmented ‘kīpuka’ landscape, using species-area relationships and graph theory analyses. Finally, if canopy arthropods are dispersive and differences in species composition across sites are not driven by substrate age, local habitat characteristics may influence species composition. I determined the role of local beta diversity and identified habitat characteristics regarding forest structure and host leaf traits that are strong drivers of beta diversity and species composition. Then, to further explore local habitat drivers I examined forests with high intraspecific variation in co-occurring Metrosideros. In this hybrid zone, insect life history traits shape species’ response to intraspecific variation in host plant characteristics, highlighting the importance of including dimensions of biodiversity beyond taxonomic diversity. Together, these results demonstrate the importance of local habitat conditions for canopy arthropods, suggest that canopy arthropod communities are highly connected and that substrate age plays a limited role in determining local arthropod communities. Such insights into biodiversity and plant-insect interactions across temporal and spatial scale are integral to understanding and conserving our natural world.