Forest gaps increase true bug diversity by recruiting open land species

Rafael Achury, Michael Staab, Nico Blüthgen, Wolfgang W. Weisser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Forests canopy gaps play an important role in forest ecology by driving the forest mosaic cycle and creating conditions for rapid plant reproduction and growth. The availability of young plants, which represent resources for herbivores, and modified environmental conditions with greater availability of light and higher temperatures, promote the colonization of animals. Remarkably, the role of gaps on insect communities has received little attention and the source of insects colonizing gaps has not been studied comprehensively. Using a replicated full-factorial forest experiment (treatments: Gap; Gap + Deadwood; Deadwood; Control), we show that following gap creation, there is a rapid change in the true bug (Heteroptera) community structure, with an increase in species that are mainly recruited from open lands. Compared with closed-canopy treatments (Deadwood and Control), open canopy treatments (Gap and Gap + Deadwood) promoted an overall increase in species (+ 59.4%, estimated as number of species per plot) and individuals (+ 76.3%) of true bugs, mainly herbivores and species associated to herbaceous vegetation. Community composition also differed among treatments, and all 17 significant indicator species (out of 117 species in total) were associated with the open canopy treatments. Based on insect data collected in grasslands and forests over an 11-year period, we found that the species colonizing experimental gaps had greater body size and a greater preference for open vegetation. Our results indicate that animal communities that assemble following gap creation contain a high proportion of habitat generalists that not occurred in closed forests, contributing significantly to overall diversity in forest mosaics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)299-312
Number of pages14
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 2023


  • Deadwood amount
  • Dispersal ability
  • Feeding guild and stratum use
  • Gap dynamics
  • Insect body size


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