Jake Clary, Erin Scott, Madeline Seagle
Faculty Sponsor: Dr. Kevin G. Smith
Habitat destruction caused by humans often results in extinctions and biodiversity loss. It is important to understand the mechanisms of habitat destruction in relation to extinction in order to prevent this phenomenon, or at least limit its effects. To this end, we asked to what extent stochastic (random) mechanisms play a role in determining which species go extinct in a destruction event, and which do not. We constructed an environment consisting of 10 mesocosms (bags filled with 16 S. Altissima ramets each). We allowed arthropods to colonize the environment, and exhaustively surveyed the arthropods. We used a null model to simulate, based on the number of beetle species in this initial survey, how many species should go extinct after destruction of half their habitat, assuming only random factors. We then performed this destruction and re-surveyed the arthropods. We compared the actual post-destruction abundances to the post-destruction abundances predicted by our null model. We found that our null model did a good job of predicting beetle extinctions. This highlights the importance of considering random chance when we make predictions about species extinctions.