Microenvironmental preferences of oribatid mite species on the floor of a tropical rainforest
The vertical distribution, microenvironmental preference, canopy cover, as well as monthly fluctuations of recently described species of three genera of macropyline oribatid mites, Mesoplophora, Bicyrthermannia and Nothrus and three genera of brachypyline mites, Scheloribates, Muliercula and Galumnella were investigated over a 9-month period in shaded and unshaded areas of a secondary regrowth forest floor in Ile Ife, Nigeria. Sampling was done monthly from August 2002 to April 2003 covering the two seasons of the annual cycle. There was an overwhelming predominance of mite populations in the 5 cm topsoil compared with the fermentation and litter layers. The preference of M. ifeana and B. nigeriana extracted from the topsoil for the shaded plot was attributed to highly conducive moisture conditions provided by the canopy. It is suggested that M. ifeana, B. nigeriana, N. lasebikani, S. mochlosimilaris, M. inexpectata and G. sonpona, that exhibited a single peak density in the wet season in this study, had similar ecological needs. The populations of M. ifeana and S. mochlosimilaris were relatively stable in the fermentation layer. The study concluded that canopy cover affected the sensitivity of soil dwelling mites on the floor of a secondary regrowth forest with regard to vertical gradients of light, microclimate and foliage quality in a complex way.