I have always been fascinated by tropical ecology and biodiversity research. In my former studies, I investigated the diversity of Afrotropical termites, one of the most important decomposers in African savannahs. Now, during my Ph.D. in the Reassembly project, my research focuses on the interactions between saproxylic insects (termites and ants) and deadwood and how this affects decomposition processes.
Little is known about the abundance and diversity of deadwood in the tropics, although it plays an essential role in nutrient cycling and global carbon storage. This is why in my first subproject we are conducting a survey of naturally occurring dead wood along the forest recovery gradient in the Chocó rainforest. As dead wood provides habitat for many specialist species, I am also examining which insect species inhabit naturally occurring deadwood objects. Here my focus is set on the co-occurrence or competitive exclusion of species and possible priority effects. In a similar experiment, I will expose wood from five different five species on the plots to explore the network of saproxylic insect species in the different tree species. Additionally, I will take morphological measurements of the collected ant and termite specimens and analyze their functional traits depending on the recovery stage. In my last experiment I will perform an insect exclusion experiment on the PREX plots that measures the contribution of the different insect taxa on dead wood decomposition as well as the influence of disturbance, fencing, and the recovery gradient. With these experiments I am aiming to provide insight into the secret world of saproxylic insects.