Acari (mite) assemblages under plantations of bluegum, Eucalyptus globulus, in southwestern Australia
Faculty of Computing, Health and Science
School of Natural Sciences / Centre for Ecosystem Management
Farm forestry, in particular the planting of exotic bluegums Eucalyptus globulus, is a strategy increasingly used in southwestern Australia to mitigate the damaging effects of land clearing and to improve agricultural productivity. At the same time, such agroforestry systems have the potential to at least partially impede the biodiversity decline associated with habitat destruction and agriculture. The soil/litter habitat, an important repository of biodiversity in terrestrial systems, is one of the habitats most affected by clearing and conventional agricultural practices. Within this habitat, free-living mites are one of the most diverse and abundant animal groups contributing significantly to key ecosystem functions. This study compares the soil and litter mite assemblages of 7-year-old E. globulus plantations with those of adjacent native forest and pasture sites. The assemblages associated with E. globulus were substantially more diverse than those of the pasture soils but well below that of the native forest. Particularly low densities of oribatid mites were observed in the plantation sites. We suggest that the young plantation age, the exotic nature of the plantation species, and the homogeneous, mono-specific litter all contributed to limit the potential for these plantations to enhance mite biodiversity.