Widespread declines of foundation species, such as many corals, kelps, and overstory trees, are of grave concern because, by definition, these species create and maintain habitat that supports other species. Nevertheless, past responses to their declines, many of which were caused by invasive species, have been late and ineffective, underscoring the need to predict changes in biodiversity and ecosystem function associated with species invasions and foundation species losses. One predictive, but under-used, approach is to compare the species and functions associated with the afflicted foundation species to its projected replacement communities. The taxa associated with the foundation species and subsequent successional stages would be expected to decline and increase, respectively. We used this approach to generate hypotheses for how arthropod diversity might change in response to extensive losses of eastern hemlock trees caused by the invasive, hemlock woolly adelgid (insect: Hemiptera, Adelgidae). Our all-strata survey of the arthropods in an eastern hemlock forest and its expected replacement climax community in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States, mixed hardwood forest, suggests that eastern hemlock losses might initiate increases in arthropod abundance, alpha diversity, and 23 arthropod taxa, might produce no change in evenness or composition of arthropod functional groups, but might trigger decreases in beta diversity and seven hemlock indicator taxa. These predictions are consistent with observed trends in arthropod responses to hemlock losses in other studies, and thus might be useful for targeting early monitoring, management, and conservation efforts. This research is exploratory, however, and tests of these predictions across larger spatial scales will be necessary to determine the generality of the findings.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Nature and Landscape Conservation
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law