a1 Conservation Science Program, World Wildlife Fund, 1250 24th St., NW, Washington, DC. 20037., USA.
Leaf litter invertebrates were sampled at eight sites, approximately 250 m apart in elevation, along an altitudinal transect extending from primary lowland rainforest to cloud forest in western Panama. The study focused on several diverse and numerically important litter invertebrate taxa (e.g., ants, spiders, and beetles) that were effectively sampled using a combination of litter sifting and test tube pitfall traps. The mean altitudinal range of species was around 500 m (standard deviation 370 m) and approximately 50% of the species characteristic of a given elevation dropped out after a 500 m change in elevation in either direction. There was no evidence for distinct altitudinal zonation in leaf litter assemblages. Both species richness and number of individuals of most taxa showed a pronounced decline in the vicinity of the upward transition to cloud forests. The data also suggest a broad mid-elevation peak in sample species richness for the litter invertebrate fauna. The implications of the results for biodiversity conservation are discussed.
(Accepted October 21 1993)