Periodic natural disturbances shape the mosaic character of many landscapes and influence the distribution and abundance of organisms. In this study, we tested the effect of ice storm-induced treefall gaps on ground-dwelling beetle assemblages in different-aged successional stands of subtropical broad-leaved forest in southeastern China. We evaluated the relative importance of gap-phase microhabitat type (within gap, gap edge, and interior shaded) within different stand ages (regenerating stands and mature stands) as determinants of changes in beetle diversity and community structure. At 18 replicate sites sampled during 2009–2010, no significant differences were found in species richness and the abundances of the most common beetle species captured in pitfall traps among the three gap-phase microhabitat types, but the abundances of total beetles, as well as fungivorous and phytophagous species groups, were significantly lower in gap microhabitats than in interior shaded microhabitats in mature stands. Beetle assemblage composition showed no significant differences among the three microhabitat types, and only the fauna of gap plots slightly diverged from those of edge and shaded plots in mature stands. Cover of shrubs and stand age significantly affected beetle assemblage structure. Our results suggest that beetle responses to gap-phase dynamics in early successional forests are generally weak, and that effects are more discernible in the mature stands, perhaps due to the abundance responses of forest-specialist species.
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Vol. 45 • No. 1