Response of plants and the dominant microarthropod, Cryptopygus antarcticus, to warming and contrasting precipitation regimes in Antarctic tundra

Authors


Thomas A. Day, e-mail: tadday@asu.edu

Abstract

We examined the influence of warming and supplemental precipitation on plant production and abundance of the dominant microarthropod, the springtail Cryptopygus antarcticus (Collembola), in tundra dominated by the vascular plants Colobanthus quitensis and Deschampsia antarctica along the Antarctic Peninsula. Tundra cores were placed in plots near Palmer Station where they were warmed with infrared heaters in combination with receiving supplemental precipitation. Diel canopy air and soil temperatures and air vapor pressure deficits in warmed plots were elevated 0.8 °C, 2.2 °C and 0.13 kPa, respectively. After two growing seasons, total aboveground plant production was greater under warming as a result of enhanced production by C. quitensis, which more than offset declines in moss biomass. Total aboveground plant production was also greater under supplemental precipitation primarily as a result of enhanced moss production. Total aboveground plant production was greatest under the combination of warming and supplemental precipitation, primarily as a result of enhanced C. quitensis production. C. antarcticus were more abundant in cores receiving supplemental precipitation and there was a strong treatment interaction; these springtails were most abundant in warmed cores receiving supplemental precipitation. Over 50% of the variability in the abundance of C. antarcticus could be explained by differences in aboveground plant biomass. However, plant production did not appear directly responsible for differences in C. antarcticus abundance; when we examined C. antarcticus abundance per unit of aboveground plant biomass, differences in its abundance among treatments were still apparent implying these differences were not the direct result of plant biomass. The responses of C. antarcticus were consistent with its known moisture and thermal preferences, suggesting that abiotic factors played a dominant role in controlling its abundance. Precipitation regime had large impacts on warming responses and these were species specific, illustrating the importance of future precipitation regimes in predicting system responses to warming.

Ancillary