Flora and fauna assemblages vary with local topography in a subtropical eucalypt forest
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Local-scale spatial patterning (over hundreds of metres) in terrestrial assemblages was investigated by sampling a variety of organisms within a 400 ha eucalypt forest area in the lowlands of south-east Queensland. Organisms were trees, shrubs, birds, insects extracted from the litter layer, and insects caught in pitfall traps. Each group was sampled using a standardized methodology, and the component taxa were counted and identified to a level commonly used in ecological studies of that organism - varying from species to order levels. Sites adjacent to drainage lines or ephemeral streams were biotically more similar to one another than they were to paired upslope sites 100-200 m distant and 15-35 m higher in altitude. This phenomenon occurred irrespective of the level of taxonomic resolution or type of organism. Within each taxonomic group, some components were mainly riparian, while others were more characteristic of upslope sites. Characteristically riparian taxa included trees in the genus Glochidion, the shrub genus Leptospermum, birds in the Pachycephalidae and Meliphagidae families, and litter invertebrates in the order Acarina. Upslope taxa included shrubs in the Rutaceae, birds in the Artamidae, and ants. Within the groups of trees, birds and litter invertebrates, more taxa were characteristic of riparian than upslope sites. Local scale biotic patterns were more strongly correlated with altitude than with measured soil characteristics; however, microtopographical differences would also be highly correlated with a large suite of covarying environmental features. The patterns of diversity and the implications for survey design and conservation are discussed.
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