Mite communities (Acari, Mesostigmata) in the initially decomposed 'litter islands' of 11 tree species in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris L.) forest.
Replacement of native deciduous forests by coniferous stands was a common result of former European afforestation policies and paradigms of forest management and led to considerable ecological consequences. Therefore, the most popular management strategy nowadays in multi-functional forestry is the re-establishment of mixed or broadleaved forests with native species on suitable habitats. However, our knowledge about the effects of tree species introduced into coniferous monocultures on soil mesofauna communities is scarce. We investigated abundance, species richness and diversity of Mesostigmata mite communities in decomposed litter of seven broadleaved (Acer platanoides L., A. pseudoplatanus L., Carpinus betulus L., Fagus sylvatica L., Tilia cordata Mill., Quercus robur L., Q. rubra L.) and four coniferous (Abies alba Mill., Larix decidua Mill., Picea abies [L.] Karst., Pinus sylvestris L.) species. We collected 297 litterbags after 6, 12 and 18 months of exposition in Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) monocultures in Siemianice Experimental Forest (SW Poland). Generally, species richness and diversity in litter samples were much lower than in the soil mite pool. The highest abundance was found in P. sylvestris and A. alba litter, while the lowest was found in A. platanoides. The most abundant families were Zerconidae, Parasitidae, Veigaiidae, and Trachytidae. Our study revealed that neither species richness nor diversity were affected, but that mite abundance was affected, by the tree species (litter quality). The mite communities were similarly comprised in both high- and low-quality litter and mite abundance decreased during the decomposition process in nutrient-poor Scots pine forests. Moreover, few mite species benefited from the decomposed litter. Additionally, a litter of various tree species was inhabited mainly by eu- and hemiedaphic mite species. Mite assemblages in A. alba, P. sylvestris, and Q. robur litter had higher abundances. Exposition time seems to be an important driver in shaping the mite community during the early stages of litter decomposition.