A comparison of the wet and dry season DNA-based soil invertebrate community characteristics in large patches of the bromeliad Bromelia pinguin in a primary forest in Costa Rica

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In Costa Rica, the Maquenque National Wildlife Refuge (MNWLR) contains a unique habitat gradient ranging from primary old growth forests, grasslands, pastures, to various ages of secondary forests. Within these primary old growth forests are extremely dense naturally occurring Bromelia pinguin (Bromeliaceae) patches that often grow with densities up to 2 plants per square meter. A previous study found that anti-fungal activity of this particular plant appears to be altering the fungal community in soils adjacent to these plants. No work has been previously conducted on the possible effects of this plant community on soil faunal communities and if seasonality contributes to changes in soil invertebrate populations along a moisture gradient. Thus, a study was conducted to assess the effects of this specialized plant community on soil invertebrates with respect to season, and if these changes in soil fauna guild structure could prove to be valid candidates as indicators of ecosystem condition with changes in precipitation. In addition, a meta-analysis was done to determine how the bromeliad-associated soil invertebrate communities differ from those in adjacent primary forest soils. Therefore, comparisons were determined from previous primary forest soil invertebrate environmental DNA (eDNA) to the current wet season bromeliad soil invertebrate eDNA. Roche 454 pyro-sequencing was conducted on the 650. bp fragment of the cytochrome oxidase subunit I (COI) gene of invertebrates to obtain and characterize soil invertebrate sequence composition. To determine relationships among soil fauna guilds across seasons, relative abundance of the sequences were calculated, and used in conjunction with EcoSim niche overlap and co-occurrence values. From the bromeliad seasonal soil fauna eDNA study, it appears certain invertebrate guilds are driven by moisture as indicated by fluctuations in relative abundance of each invertebrate guild across seasons in bromeliad patch soils, as well as indicated by EcoSim niche overlap values. In particular, Guilds 1, 4, and 5, should warrant further investigation as indicators of habitat condition. The meta-analysis showed that a naturally occurring modified environment (the bromeliad patches), can result in differences in relative abundance and partitioning of a limited resource between invertebrate guild structure. Those guilds associated with microbivorous and complex decomposition activities (i.e. Guilds 3 and 4), are more abundant in primary forest soils than bromeliad patch soils and could potentially used for bioindicators of habitat perturbations.

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Applied Soil Ecology

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