Leaf litter arthropod responses to tropical forest restoration

Leaf litter arthropod responses to tropical forest restoration


Soil and litter arthropods play critical roles in tropical ecosystem function including driving organic matter decomposition and nitrogen mineralization. With the increasing need for forest restoration projects, it is important to know how these arthropod communities respond to a variety of restoration strategies and techniques in order to maintain healthy ecosystem function. This study was conducted in a mixed-use agricultural landscape in southern Costa Rica, in an effort to contribute to local restoration research efforts.

Research Goals & Methods

The goal of this study was to observe and compare the response of leaf litter arthropod communities to different forest restoration strategies. The authors measured arthropod abundance, richness, and community composition in leaf litter under three different restoration strategies: natural regeneration, applied nucleation/tree islands, and mixed-species tree plantations. Their observations were compared to reference forest ecosystems.

Conclusions & Takeaways

The authors found arthropod communities responded best to applied nucleation, exhibiting similar or higher abundance, richness, and diversity of some organisms. However, none of the 3 restoration methods produced an arthropod profile similar to that in reference forests; this was attributed to a mismatch of recovery timescales. While species composition saw significant differences, the authors characterize the recovery of functional diversity and functional group composition as promising.


Cole RJ, Holl KD, Zahawi RA, Wickey P, Townsend AR. Leaf litter arthropod responses to tropical forest restoration. Ecology and Evolution. 2016;6:5158–5168. doi:10.1002/ece3.2220.


  • National Science Foundation