Date of Award

Spring 5-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Natalie Clay


Community structure and ecosystem function may be driven by the amount and size of habitat or energy within an environment, but these metrics (space and energy) are difficult to separate, especially in systems where habitat is also a source of energy such as detritus (dead organic matter including deadwood). Deadwood can impact forest food webs through the creation of habitat and provision of resources and initial differences in wood characteristics may differentially impact food webs. Bark beetles attack and kill pine trees, inoculating them with bluestain fungi (Ascomycota: Ophiostomataceae). Bluestain fungi may increase termite presence in deadwood, and possibly in the surrounding leaf litter, potentially leading to increased abundances of leaf litter invertebrates over time. I tested the effect deadwood in general, and deadwood inoculated with bluestain fungi or H2O (controls) in particular, on leaf litter communities after one and seven years. Additionally, I tested whether fine woody debris affects leaf litter communities more as a source of space or energy. I found that the presence of deadwood led to distinct leaf litter communities compared to when no wood was present across both collection years. Additionally, I found that fine woody debris acted as both a source of space and energy. These results suggest that woody debris positively affects leaf litter communities; therefore, woody debris inputs are essential in maintaining forest litter decomposition and maintaining forest ecosystem function. Moreover, these results contribute to the mounting evidence that deadwood has important impacts on forest biodiversity.