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Structure, composition and trophic ecology of forest floor predatory mites (Mesostigmata) from the boreal mixedwood forest of northwestern Alberta Open Access


Other title
Mixozercon genus
Mixedwood boreal forests
Community composition
Mesostigmatan mites
Trophic structure
Type of item
Degree grantor
University of Alberta
Author or creator
Diaz Aguilar, Irma
Supervisor and department
Kishchuk, Barbara (Northern Forestry Centre, Canadian Forest Service, Natural Resources Canada)
Quideau, Sylvie (Department of Renewable Resources)
Examining committee member and department
Spence, John (Department of Renewable Resources)
Berch, Shannon (BC Ministry of Forests)
Landhausser, Simon (Department of Renewable Resources)
Proctor, Heather (Department of Biological Sciences)
Department of Renewable Resources
Soil Science
Date accepted
Graduation date
Doctor of Philosophy
Degree level
The forest floor, including the L, F and H horizons is the habitat for numerous soil fauna whose ecological relationships affect various soil processes. The forest floor is closely associated with stand development in boreal forests, creating distinct biochemical and physical characteristics within the different organic layers. Under the premise that forest floor soil communities are closely associated with, and characteristic of a particular stand type. I used predator mites (Mesostigmata) dwelling in forest floors to study the impact of forest stand type on the structure and composition of these mite assemblages. Differences in species richness, dominance and assemblages were a consequence of forest stand type. Results further demonstrated the importance of coniferous trees in structuring mesostigmatan assemblages. Forest floor pH structured variation in mite assemblages and forest floor thickness were associated with habitat preferences. Thus, the variation in habitat changes from early seral stages to mature old-growth stands results in diverse predatory mite assemblages. A particularly interesting feature of the fauna was the great diversity of zerconid species of genus Mixozercon (Halašková, 1963), including M. albertaensis, M. jasoniana and M. borealis, species that are exclusively found in western boreal forests. I used nitrogen isotope analysis (δ15N values) to assess the trophic positions of mesostigmatan and some oribatid mites in relation to potential effects of forest harvest on soil food webs in coniferous and deciduous stands. The differences in δ15N separated the mites in three main trophic guilds: detritivores (only oribatid), omnivores (overlapping with predators) and predators. Each guild was further subdivided into subguilds based on feeding relationships. Isotopic nitrogen fractionation within the mites did not seem to be affected by their habitat (spruce vs aspen) or by clearcutting. Instead, the well-defined degree of isotopic fractionation observed within the food web may depend only on the predator-prey feeding relationships because the degree of isotopic enrichment (or depletion) of predator reflects its diet.
Permission is hereby granted to the University of Alberta Libraries to reproduce single copies of this thesis and to lend or sell such copies for private, scholarly or scientific research purposes only. Where the thesis is converted to, or otherwise made available in digital form, the University of Alberta will advise potential users of the thesis of these terms. The author reserves all other publication and other rights in association with the copyright in the thesis and, except as herein before provided, neither the thesis nor any substantial portion thereof may be printed or otherwise reproduced in any material form whatsoever without the author's prior written permission.
Citation for previous publication
Diaz-Aguilar I. (2010). Zootaxa 2555

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