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Disturbance alters the structure of ecological communities. Localized disturbances in tropical rainforests often create canopy gaps - patches of forest where large trees have fallen or are defoliated. Lightning is a major cause of large-tree mortality, and consequently gaps, in tropical forests. Lightning-caused gaps consist of abundant dead standing wood which likely is a predictable resource for saproxylic arthropods, specifically wood-boring beetles (Coleoptera). The goal of this study was to provide a preliminary evaluation of the beetles that are attracted to lightning-damaged trees in a tropical forest. We placed flight intercept traps in the subcanopy of 8 trees (4 struck trees and 4 unaffected trees of the same size and species) on Barro Colorado Island, Panama in 2018. Collected beetles were counted and identified to subfamily. Abundance analyses focused on Platypodinae (pinhole borers) and Scolytinae (bark beetles), both of which were significantly more abundant near struck trees vs. unaffected trees. These results suggest that the dead wood of trees struck by lightning is an identifiable resource for saproxylic beetles. Ongoing research will examine differences in beetle communities associated with treefall gaps and lightning gaps. Ultimately, this research will clarify the relevance of lightning to the maintenance of beetle diversity in tropical forests.
Ecology, Beetle, Lightning, Deadwood
Biology | Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
Vaughn, Samantha C.; Lawhorn, Kane A.; Gora, Evan M.; and Yanoviak, Steve P., "Lightning damage stimulates beetle activity in a tropical forest" (2020). Undergraduate Arts and Research Showcase. 22.