Springtail Diversity in the Cape Floristic Region
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Understanding the distribution, abundance and diversity of species and the mechanisms causing these patterns has been the interest of ecologists and taxonomists for decades. The exceptionally high plant diversity in the Fynbos biome has been well studied. Whilst early arguments suggested that the high plant diversity is not reflected in the arthropod diversity and that insect species richness is low compared to other comparable areas, these observations might have been hampered by the taxonomic impediment. Despite global recognition of the significance of this below-ground component of diversity for ecosystem functioning, soil is one of the most poorly studied habitats of terrestrial ecosystems. Although knowledge is increasing for epigaeic groups, other significant groups such as the Collembola remain especially poorly understood. This thesis starts addressing this serious gap in knowledge concerning the below-ground component of biodiversity in the Fynbos biome and the effects of landscape transformation thereon. As part of the work, considerable attention was given to resolving the taxonomic impediment for the springtail fauna of the Fynbos biome using modern morphological and DNA barcoding methods, while also examining the correlates of soil animal diversity in the biome, by using Collembola (springtails) as exemplars. First, using a combination of published records of Collembola from South Africa, various sampling methods and DNA barcoding, a species list is compiled for the Western Cape. Currently 213 species are known to exist from the Western Cape. A high level of cryptic diversity was also found in several genera, together with several potential species radiations in the Ectonura, Seira, Parisotoma and Cryptopygus.