Differential arthropod responses to warming are altering the structure of arctic communities

New publication by Amanda M. Koltz, Niels M. Schmidt, Toke T. Høye

2018.04.30 | Peter Schmidt Mikkelsen



The Arctic is experiencing some of the fastest rates of warming on the planet. Although many studies have documented responses to such warming by individual species, the idiosyncratic nature of these findings has prevented us from extrapolating them to community-level predictions. Here, we leverage the availability of a long-term dataset from Zackenberg, Greenland (593 700 specimens collected between 1996 and 2014), to investigate how climate parameters influence the abundance of different arthropod groups and overall community composition. We find that variation in mean seasonal temperatures, winter duration and winter freeze–thaw events is correlated with taxon-specific and habitat-dependent changes in arthropod abundances. In addition, we find that arthropod communities have exhibited compositional changes consistent with the expected effects of recent shifts towards warmer active seasons and fewer freeze–thaw events in NE Greenland. Changes in community composition are up to five times more extreme in drier than wet habitats, with herbivores and parasitoids generally increasing in abundance, while the opposite is true for surface detritivores. These results suggest that species interactions and food web dynamics are changing in the Arctic, with potential implications for key ecosystem processes such as decomposition, nutrient cycling and primary productivity.

R.Soc.opensci. 5:171503. dx.doi.org/10.1098/rsos.171503

Arctic Research Centre