Canadian Forest Service Publications

Taxonomic, temporal, and spatial variation in the dynamics of High-Arctic arthropod populations. 2020. Høye, T.T.; Loboda, S.; Koltz, A.M.; Gillespie, M.A.K.; Bowden, J.J.; Schmidt, N.M. bioRxiv

Year: 2020

Issued by: Atlantic Forestry Centre

Catalog ID: 40611

Language: English

Availability: PDF (request by e-mail)

Available from the Journal's Web site.
DOI: 10.1101/2020.04.27.052795

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Time-series data on arthropod populations are critical for understanding the magnitude, direction, and drivers of abundance changes. However, most arthropod monitoring programs are short-lived and limited in taxonomic resolution and spatial extent. Consequently, variation in population dynamics among taxa and habitats remains poorly understood. Monitoring data from the Arctic are particularly underrepresented, yet important to assessments of species abundance changes because many anthropogenic drivers of change that are present in other regions are absent in polar regions. Here, we utilise 24 years of abundance data from Zackenberg in High-Arctic Greenland, which is the longest running Arctic arthropod monitoring program, to study temporal trends in abundance. Despite a strong warming signal in air temperature, we only find evidence of weak temporal trends in arthropod abundances across most taxa. These trends are more pronounced in the most recent decade, with change point analyses suggesting distinct non-linear dynamics within some functional groups such as predators and detritivores. Although the abundances of many taxa were correlated, we detected both positive and negative correlations, suggesting that multiple processes are affecting arthropod populations even in this relatively simple Arctic food web. Finally, we found clear differences among species within single families of arthropods, indicating that an apparent lack of change in abundance at broader taxonomic or functional levels could mask substantial species-specific trends. Our results reiterate the need for more basic research into the life-history, ecology, and adaptation of arthropod species to better understand their sensitivity to global changes.

Plain Language Summary

Terrestrial arthropods (insects and spiders) serve numerous critical functions in ecosystems and are excellent indicators of environmental change due to their physiology, short generation time, and abundance. The Arctic is undergoing rapid climate change, but there have been limited direct human impacts in this biome. It is therefore, ideal for testing how arthropod populations are changing in response to climate change. We use the most comprehensive, standardized dataset available on Arctic arthropods to evaluate the variability in populations for the most common arthropod groups in the region at various taxonomic levels across 24 years. Our results highlight that temporal trends of arthropod populations seem less directional in the Arctic than in other studies from temperate regions. Furthermore, although abundances of some arthropod groups are declining, particularly in recent decades, population trends are still highly variable between time periods, taxa, and habitats.