Connell's intermediate disturbance hypothesis predicts that the highest diversity is maintained at intermediate levels of disturbance. We have examined this hypothesis by observing differences in biodiversity of terrestrial isopods along a gradient of disturbance from two undisturbed primary tropical rainforest sites, to a logged site, a mixed native fruit orchard and a commercial oil palm plantation, in Sabah, East Malaysia. We describe a standardised protocol for the rapid assessment of isopod biodiversity on tropical forest floor sites and for measuring environmental variables to which we have related differences in species richness and relative abundance of the isopods. The results do not support Connell's hypothesis because there were no significant differences in diversity, species richness or equitability between disturbed sites and the nearest primary forests. The relative abundance of individual species was highest in the most disturbed environment. We suggest that this may be because particular species are well adapted to exploiting resources under the more ‘r’ selection conditions created by disturbance. Possible reasons for why the observations do not conform with predictions from the intermediate disturbance hypothesis are discussed. We conclude that Huston's dynamic equilibrium model is more appropriate than the intermediate disturbance hypothesis in predicting the effects of disturbance of tropical rainforests on these arthropod macro-decomposers.
- Species richness
- Tropical rain forest
- Dynamic equilibrium hypothesis