Leaf-Litter Arthropods in Restored Forests in the Colombian Andes: A Comparison Between Secondary Forest and Tree Plantations
Tree monocultures of native and exotic species are frequently used as tools to catalyze forest recovery throughout the tropics. Although plantations may rapidly develop a canopy cover, they need to be evaluated as habitat for other organisms. We compared samples of leaf-litter arthropods from two elevations in restored forest in the Colombian Andes. At the upper elevation (2,430 m), we compared native Andean alder (Alnus acuminata) plantation and secondary forest, and at the lower elevation (1,900 m) exotic Chinese ash (Fraxinus chinensis) plantation and secondary forest. Samples were obtained in two periods, March–April and September 1995. Species richness and abundance of arthropods were highest in secondary forest at the lower elevation. There were no differences in richness between both plantations and high-elevation forest. Arthropod richness and abundance increased in the second sampling period in both secondary forest types and the ash plantation but not in the alder plantation, reflecting population recovery after the dry season. Alder leaf litter apparently buffered seasonal variations in arthropod richness and abundance. Composition of morphospecies was different among forest types. Although arthropod richness was lower in ash plantations compared to secondary forest, plantations still provided habitat for these organisms. On the other hand, the alder plantation was not different from secondary forest at the same elevation. At our site, plantations are embedded in a forested landscape. Whether our results apply to different landscape configurations and at different spatial scales needs to be established. The use of plantations as a restoration tool depends on the objectives of the project and on local conditions of forest cover and soils.