Priority effects of early successional insects influence late successional fungi in dead wood.

Research paper by Rannveig Margrete RM Jacobsen, Tone T Birkemoe, Anne A Sverdrup-Thygeson

Indexed on: 08 Dec '15Published on: 08 Dec '15Published in: Ecology and Evolution


Community assembly is an integral process in all ecosystems, producing patterns of species distributions, biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning. Environmental filters and colonization history govern the assembly process, but their relative importance varies depending on the study system. Dead wood decomposition is a slow process, allowing decomposer communities to develop within a slowly changing substrate for decades. Despite this, there are few long-term studies of priority effects from colonization history in this ecosystem. In this study, we investigate the importance of insects in early succession of dead wood on the fungal community present one decade later. Sixty aspen trees were killed in two study landscapes, each tree producing one aspen high stump and log. Insects were sampled with flight interception traps during the first 4 years after tree death, and fungal fruiting bodies were registered in year twelve. We found positive priority effects of two fungivorous beetles, the sap beetle Glischrochilus quadripunctatus and the round fungus beetle Agathidium nigripenne, on the Artist's bracket (Ganoderma applanatum) and a positive priority effect of wood-boring beetles on the ascomycete Yellow fairy cup (Bisporella citrina). The Aspen bracket (Phellinus tremulae) did not respond to insects in early succession of the dead wood. Our results suggest that early successional insects can have significant, long-lasting effects on the late successional fungal community in dead wood. Also, the effect can be specific, with one fungus species depending on one or a few fungivorous beetle species. This has implications for decomposition and biodiversity in dead wood, as loss of early colonizing beetles may also affect the successional pathways they seem to initiate.