Ecology of soil arthropod fauna in tropical forests: A review of studies from Puerto Rico
The majority of ecological studies in the tropics deal with organisms participating in grazing food webs, while few deal with the diversity of invertebrates in the soil, leaf litter or dead wood that participate in detrital food webs. For tropical forests, the status of information on soil animal diversity is limited, especially when compared to other ecosystems such as temperate forests, grasslands, and deserts. Given the high rate of forest conversion and persistence of deforestation in the tropics, it is important to study the diversity of its fauna and assess how global changes will affect the linkages between soil biota and ecosystem functioning. This review article focuses on surveys and studies conducted in Puerto Rico, a tropical Caribbean island where a significant number of ecological investigations have focused on the characterization of the edaphic fauna, and how they influence ecosystem processes in forested sites. Results from experimentations suggest that soil fauna is an important determinant of decay and nutrient cycling in these forests. Likewise, this article highlights the importance of methodological constraints in studies that compare these organisms at sites with differing climatic conditions, and focuses on the description of ecological studies related to the effects of microarthropods on litter and wood decay.