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1 September 2003 Effects of Land Crabs on Leaf Litter Distributions and Accumulations in a Mainland Tropical Rain Forest
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Abstract
The effect of the fossorial land crab Gecarcinus quadratus (Gecarcinidae) on patterns of accumulation and distribution of leaf litter was studied for two years in the coastal primary forests of Costa Rica's Corcovado National Park. Within this mainland forest, G. quadratus achieve densities up to 6 crabs/m2 in populations extending along the Park's Pacific coastline and inland for ca 600 m. Crabs selectively forage for fallen leaf litter and relocate what they collect to burrow chambers that extend from 15 to 150 cm deep (N = 44), averaging (±SE) 48.9 ± 3.0 cm. Preference trials suggested that leaf choice by crabs may be species-specific. Excavated crab burrows revealed maximum leaf collections of 11.75 g dry mass—2.5 times more leaf litter than collected by square-meter leaf fall traps over several seven-day sampling periods. Additionally, experimental crab exclosures (25 m2) were established using a repeated measures randomized block design to test for changes in leaf litter as a function of reduced crab density. Exclosures accumulated significantly more (5.6 ± 3.9 times) leaf litter than did control treatments during the wet, but not the dry, seasons over this two-year study. Such extensive litter relocation by land crabs may affect profiles of soil organic carbon, rooting, and seedling distributions.
and Peter M. Sherman "Effects of Land Crabs on Leaf Litter Distributions and Accumulations in a Mainland Tropical Rain Forest1," BIOTROPICA 35(3), (1 September 2003). https://doi.org/10.1646/02026
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