High within- and between-trunk variation in the nematoceran (Diptera) community and its physical environment in the decaying aspen trunks

Dead wood is a primary habitat for a large number of insects, including species from many nematoceran (Diptera) groups. The species living in dead wood must be adapted to the ephemeral and ever-changing nature of their substrate. There is a growing body of knowledge about the effects of dead wood quality and the surrounding landscape on the saproxylic beetle community, but we know very little about the other saproxylic insects. Moreover, we know only very little about the variation in the insect community between different parts of decaying wood pieces. Using emergence traps, we studied the saproxylic nematoceran communities occupying different parts of decaying fallen aspen trunks in a boreal forest. To explain the variation in the detected assemblages, we also studied the variation in the physical environment in different parts of one of the studied trunks during the season. We found out that the overall variation in assemblages was very high and also the similarity between the base and top of the same trunk was usually low. Dissimilarity arose more from differences in species richness than from species turnover. The greatest contrasts in the physical conditions of the study trunk were between the inside and the upper and lower surface of the trunk base. Due to high variation within the trunks and especially between the trunks, the sampling effort in studies on the ecology of saproxylic insects should be high to have a reliable estimate of the local community.