Abstract Title

The Effect of Leaf Litter Species and Habitat Conditions on Vernal Pool Invertebrates and Communities

Abstract

Vernal pools fill during the spring when snowmelt and rainwater gather in depressions in the ground. Undecomposed leaf litter from previous years will fall into these depressions and become both a shelter and a food source for many invertebrates. Leaf litter from different tree species were tested to compare the invertebrate communities that colonized in each and, ultimately, to determine whether one leaf species was colonized quicker or more abundantly than another. Invertebrates were identified to the family level. The family Asellidae was the most abundant invertebrate type in all leaf species litters, accounting for 56% of the total invertebrate count, followed by the family Chironomidae with 26% of the total. A multivariate analysis showed that there was no significant difference between invertebrate communities among leaf litter types. Samples were heavily dominated by a few families of invertebrates and were colonized by very few other families. The similarity between communities showed that the invertebrates likely perform many of the same ecological functions on different leaf types. As a whole community, this ecological function is primarily to breakdown larger leaf litter so that smaller organisms can continue the decomposition process.

Research Category

Biology/Ecology

Primary Author's Major

Zoology

Mentor #1 Information

Dr. Ferenc deSzalay

Start Date

11-3-2015 1:00 PM

End Date

11-3-2015 5:00 PM

Research Area

Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

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Mar 11th, 1:00 PM Mar 11th, 5:00 PM

The Effect of Leaf Litter Species and Habitat Conditions on Vernal Pool Invertebrates and Communities

Vernal pools fill during the spring when snowmelt and rainwater gather in depressions in the ground. Undecomposed leaf litter from previous years will fall into these depressions and become both a shelter and a food source for many invertebrates. Leaf litter from different tree species were tested to compare the invertebrate communities that colonized in each and, ultimately, to determine whether one leaf species was colonized quicker or more abundantly than another. Invertebrates were identified to the family level. The family Asellidae was the most abundant invertebrate type in all leaf species litters, accounting for 56% of the total invertebrate count, followed by the family Chironomidae with 26% of the total. A multivariate analysis showed that there was no significant difference between invertebrate communities among leaf litter types. Samples were heavily dominated by a few families of invertebrates and were colonized by very few other families. The similarity between communities showed that the invertebrates likely perform many of the same ecological functions on different leaf types. As a whole community, this ecological function is primarily to breakdown larger leaf litter so that smaller organisms can continue the decomposition process.