Vegetation thresholds for the occurrence of millipedes (Diplopoda) in different tropical forest types in Andasibe, Madagascar

Vegetation thresholds for the occurrence of millipedes (Diplopoda) in different tropical forest types in Andasibe, Madagascar

Lea Rebecca Spelzhausen, Thomas Wesener, Kai Schütte

Abstract


Forest clearance, especially in the tropics, leads to habitat loss for many organisms including litter-dwelling arthropods. Among other invertebrates, millipedes (Diplopoda) provide important ecosystem services like decomposition and nutrient cycling in forest ecosystems. Despite their importance, little is known about litter invertebrates’ response to tropical forest degradation and their role in reforestation. The present article should rather be regarded as a review of millipedes’ occurrence in tropical forests with a pilot study from Madagascar, because the sample size is small and results need to be confirmed. This pilot study investigated the relationship between millipedes and vegetation characteristics in the eastern rainforests of Madagascar, in the region of Andasibe, parts of which are undergoing reforestation. Vegetation characteristics were measured in ten different forests encompassing different types: remnant rainforest, secondary forest, old Eucalyptus plantations, recently enriched with indigenous tree species, and degraded sites. Millipede species were searched by hand, identified and their occurrence in relation to the environmental characteristics was described.

Vegetation characteristics differed between forest types. Old Eucalyptus plantations, secondary forest, and primary rainforest were associated with higher litter depth and more native millipede species than degraded sites and forests afforested with native tree species since 2007. Non-native millipedes occurred in all vegetation formations except the primary rainforest site and did not show any relationship with vegetation characteristics. In contrast, native millipedes’ occurrence was related to conditions associated with mature forest, such as high litter depth and high foliage cover. Logistic regression revealed a threshold of litter depth above which native millipedes are likely to occur. The results indicate that native millipedes are affected by forest degradation and are incompletely restored even when the afforested forest might approach the original state. Special care should be taken during reforestation efforts, as non-native soil arthropods can be introduced, completely replacing the indigenous biota.

 

Résumé

Les conséquences de la déforestation globale sont multiples. Pour la plupart des organismes, la déforestation est la cause principale de la destruction des habitats. Les arthropodes qui vivent sur le sol forestier ou dans le feuillage sont ainsi menacés, surtout dans les forêts tropicales. Ces organismes sont pourtant indispensables au maintien de la résilience de la forêt. Dans l’écosystème forestier, les millepattes et autres arthropodes sont très importants pour la mise à disposition de différents services écosystémiques, par exemple pour leur rôle dans le cycle des éléments nutritifs, la formation des sols et la décomposition. Malgré leur importance, peu d’informations sont disponibles sur la réaction des invertébrés suite à la dégradation des forêts et leur rôle dans la reforestation.

Cette étude tient surtout lieu de révision de l’occurrence des millepattes dans les forêts tropicales avec une étude pilote menée à Madagascar, dans la mesure où l'échantillonnage est réduit et que les résultats restent partiels. Cette étude pilote analyse les relations entre les millepattes et les caractéristiques végétales dans les forêts de l’Est de Madagascar, dans la région d’Andasibe. Ces forêts sont très diverses et dix types de forêt ont été considérés, à savoir une forêt récemment dégradée et une forêt dégradée, une forêt dégradée et reboisée avec des espèces arborées indigènes en 2007, 2012 ou 2015, des plantations d’Eucalyptus abandonnées depuis 1930 ou 1909, deux forêts secondaires, une forêt primaire. Dans ces différents types de forêt, les caractéristiques de la végétation ont été enregistrées et des millepattes ont été récoltés à la main. Les espèces de millepattes ont été identifiées et leur occurrence ont été analysées par rapport aux caractéristiques de la végétation. Les vieilles plantations d’Eucalyptus et les forêts secondaire et primaire étaient caractérisées par une couche plus épaisse de feuilles et davantage d’espèces de millepattes indigènes par rapport aux forêts dégradée et replantée. Les espèces allogènes étaient présentes dans tous les types de forêt à l’exception de la forêt primaire. La présence de ces espèces n’était pas liée aux caractéristiques de la végétation. En revanche, l’occurrence des espèces indigènes était associée à des conditions qui sont caractéristiques des forêts matures, par exemple une couche de feuilles épaisse et une couverture foliaire dense. L’analyse de régression logistique a révélé une valeur seuil pour la hauteur de la couche de feuilles mortes. Au-delà de ce seuil, il est probable que les millepattes indigènes soient présents. L’étude a montré que les millepattes indigènes sont impactés par la déforestation et qu’ils ne sont pas facilement restaurés même si la restauration semble permettre à la forêt de se rapprocher de son état initial.


Keywords


millipedes; reforestation; vegetation threshold, leaf litter, introduced species

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