Road edge effects on litter invertebrate communities of subtropical forests
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We assessed road edge effects on leaf-litter macroinvertebrates in laurel and pine forests in Tenerife (Canary Islands), studying composition, abundance, richness and diversity, and the role of environmental gradients. We sorted species to the finest taxonomic resolution possible and used a morphospecies approach when necessary. In all, 15,824 invertebrates were identified from 388 litter samples (from >500 species, five major phyla and 31 orders). Alien invasive species of Oligochaeta, Pulmonata, Isopoda, Diplopoda and Hymenoptera were frequent in both forests. Richness, diversity and rarefaction pointed to a disturbance threshold within the first 10 m off the road, and edge effects were steeper in laurel forest than in pine forest. Overabundant aliens were partially responsible for highly disturbed litter assemblages on this edge zone in both forests. Proximity to road edge caused gradients of disturbance of forest structure. Litter moisture, rock and litter cover in laurel forest, and grass and canopy cover in pine forest were the best predictors of community variation. Results seemed to give some empirical support to the intermediate disturbance hypothesis. This altered road edge zone may accumulate regionally causing net reductions of ecosystem area and quality, impacting on its integrity and biodiversity.