To study the oribatid mite community inhabiting microhabitats in the canopy of montane Abies amabilis [(Douglas ex D. Don) Lindl.] and Tsuga heterophylla [(Raf.) Sarg] tree species across five elevational sites, we collected 180 branch tips and 180 foliose/crustose lichen samples over three time periods. Thirty-three species of oribatid mites were identified from the study area. Mite species richness and abundance was significantly affected by microhabitat, and this association was independent of sampling time. At the microhabitat scale, distinct species assemblages were associated with lichen and branch tip habitats, and to a lesser degree, tree species. Conifer specificity was most apparent in the closely related species of Jugatala, where Jugatala tuberosa Ewing was only found on branch tips from A. amabilis and Jugatala sp. was primarily found on branch tips from T. heterophylla. Microhabitat specificity was most pronounced in Dendrozetes sp. where most individuals were found on branch tips and Anachiperia geminus Lindo et al. that occurred primarily on lichens. Principal components analysis of oribatid mite community composition further showed a high degree of association with microhabitat and tree species. Habitat profiles are difficult to discern for many species because tree, microhabitat, and elevation preferences confound distribution patterns. Given the significant tree-microhabitat associations in species composition in this montane canopy study, we suggest that sampling multiple microhabitats across elevations to look for patterns in community structure offers opportunities to explicitly test organizing principles in community ecology.
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