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Species and community responses to short-term climate manipulation: Microarthropods in the sub-Antarctic



Abstract:  Both species and community-level investigations are important for understanding the biotic impacts of climate change, because current evidence suggests that individual species responses are idiosyncratic. However, few studies of climate change impacts have been conducted on entire terrestrial arthropod communities living in the same habitat in the southern Hemisphere, and the effects of precipitation changes on them are particularly poorly understood. Here we investigate the species- and community-level responses of microarthropods inhabiting a keystone plant species, on sub-Antarctic Marion Island, to experimental reduction in precipitation, warming and shading. These climate manipulations were chosen based on observed climate trends and predicted indirect climate change impacts on this system. The dry-warm and shade inducing treatments that were imposed effected significant species- and community-level responses after a single year. Although the strongest community-level trends included a dramatic decline in springtail abundance and total biomass under the dry-warm and shade treatments, species responses were generally individualistic, that is, springtails responded differently to mites, and particular mite and springtail species responded differently to each other. Our results therefore provide additional support for the dynamic rather than static model for community responses to climate change, in the first such experiment in the sub-Antarctic. In conclusion, these results show that an ongoing decline in precipitation and increase in temperature is likely to have dramatic direct and indirect effects on this microarthropod community. Moreover, they indicate that while at a broad scale it may be possible to make generalizations regarding species responses to climate change, these generalizations are unlikely to translate into predictable effects at the community level.