Vertical stratification of moths across elevation and latitude

Aim: There is little consensus as to whether stratification of arthropods between canopy and understorey in tropical and subtropical forests is commonplace and if the magnitude of stratification changes across different elevations and latitudes. We investigated broad‐scale patterns of vertical stratification of moths collected from extensive cross‐continental fieldwork in a variety of forest types, climates, elevations, latitudes and areas with differing biogeographical history.

Location: Tropical and subtropical rain forest in eastern Australia; tropical, subtropical and subalpine forest in Yunnan Province, China; and tropical rain forest in Panama, Vietnam, Brunei and Papua New Guinea.

Methods: Night‐flying moths were trapped from the upper canopy and understorey. We generated a total of 64 data sets to quantify vertical stratification of moths in terms of their species richness, using coverage‐based rarefaction, and assemblage composition, using standardized hierarchical beta diversity. Based on the average temperature lapse rate, we incorporated latitudinal differences into elevation and generated ‘corrected’ elevation for each location, and analysed its relationships with the magnitude of stratification.

Results: We found consistent differences between canopy and understorey assemblages at almost all rain forest locations across corrected elevational gradients. The magnitude of vertical stratification in species richness did not change with increasing corrected elevation. In contrast, the difference in assemblage composition increased with increasing corrected elevation in the Northern Hemisphere, while the opposite, albeit weak, trend was found in the Southern Hemisphere.

Main conclusions: Clear vertical stratification was evident in moth assemblages regardless of elevation and latitude. However, the degree to which assemblages are stratified between canopy and understorey is not uniformly related to elevation and latitude. Inconsistencies in the magnitude of vertical stratification between the Northern and Southern Hemisphere, may reflect, on one hand, deep‐time biogeographical differences between the land masses studied and, on the other, place‐to‐place differences in resource availability underpinning the observed moth assemblages.

Louise A. Ashton, Akihiro Nakamura, Yves Basset, Chris J. Burwell, Min Cao, Rodney Eastwood, Erica Odell, Evandro Gama de Oliveira, Karen Hurley, Masatoshi Katabuchi, Sarah Maunsell, James McBroom, Jürgen Schmidl, Zhenhua Sun, Yong Tang, Terry Whitaker, Melinda J. Laidlaw, William J.F. McDonald, & Roger Kitching
Journal of Biogeography