Moreno, C.E., R. Guevara, G. Sánchez-Rojas, D. Téllez & J. R. Verdú. 2008. Community level patterns in diverse systems: a case study of litter fauna in a Mexican pine-oak forest using higher taxa surrogates and re-sampling methods. Acta Oecologica 33:73-84.
Environmental assessment at the community level in highly diverse ecosystems is limited by taxonomic constraints and statistical methods requiring true replicates. Our objective was to show how diverse systems can be studied at the community level using higher taxa as biodiversity surrogates, and re-sampling methods to allow comparisons. To illustrate this we compared the abundance, richness, evenness and diversity of the litter fauna in a pine-oak forest in central Mexico among seasons, sites and collecting methods. We also assessed changes in the abundance of trophic guilds and evaluated the relationships between community parameters and litter attributes. With the direct search method we observed differences in the rate of taxa accumulation between sites. Bootstrap analysis showed that abundance varied significantly between seasons and sampling methods, but not between sites. In contrast, diversity and evenness were significantly higher at the managed than at the non-managed site. Tree regression models show that abundance varied mainly between seasons, whereas taxa richness was affected by litter attributes (composition and moisture content). The abundance of trophic guilds varied among methods and seasons, but overall we found that parasitoids, predators and detrivores decreased under management. Therefore, although our results suggest that management has positive effects on the richness and diversity of litter fauna, the analysis of trophic guilds revealed a contrasting story. Our results indicate that functional groups and re-sampling methods may be used as tools for describing community patterns in highly diverse systems. Also, the higher taxa surrogacy could be seen as a preliminary approach when it is not possible to identify the specimens at a low taxonomic level in a reasonable period of time and in a context of limited financial resources, but further studies are needed to test whether the results are specific to a system or whether they are general with regards to land management.