Faculty Advisor

Liam Heneghan


Biodiversity loss may serve as a key diagnostic of the Anthropocene. An important driver of this loss is by means of invasive species. In this study of a forest preserve in Chicago, Illinois we examined Interspersed Denuded Zones (IDZs for short), which are areas of patchy leaf litter in invaded forests caused in this case by the rapid decomposition of litter from buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica). We characterized the leaf litter mass in IDZs and enumerated litter-inhabiting microarthropod populations. We found that plots of high buckthorn density are associated with IDZs: there was significantly less leaf litter mass in these invaded areas. Litter in IDZs also hosted fewer microarthropods compared to plots with little to no buckthorn invasion. We therefore caution that our results may signal potential microfaunal biodiversity loss as a result of buckthorn invasion.