Insect Diversity and Niche Specialization in Giant Sequoias

Project Timeline: 2/9/2009-2/28/2010

The Mycetophilidae (fungus gnats) are poorly understood but very abundant and phylogenetically diverse group of flies. In California, surprisingly, much of the is still undocumented, including many species new to science. Sequoia Foundation staff set out to collect Mycetophilidae and their nearest relatives in as many California localities as possible, in association with the California State Collection of Arthropods. The object of the study was to compare diversity levels and identify niche specialization along vertical gradient of a forest habitat.

The project objectives included the following:
1) Discover and document rare or new insect taxa found in the giant sequoia forest canopy.
2) Evaluate relative abundance of target taxa at each level above the forest floor.
3) Discover and document differences between insects assemblages in the forest understory and giant sequoia canopy.
4) Document levels of insect diversity that may be compared to other canopy habitats; in other giant sequoia stands, in coastal redwood groves, and in other types of temperate and tropical forests.
5) Generate a list of arthropod species known to occur in Calaveras Big Trees State Park.