Impact of warming and timing of snow melt on soil microarthropod assemblages associated with Dryas-dominated plant communities on Svalbard


  • Rebecca Dollery,

  • Ian D. Hodkinson,

  • Ingibjörg S. Jónsdóttir

R. Dollery and I. D.Hodkinson (correspondence:, School of Biological & Earth Sciences, Liverpool John Moores Univ., Byrom St., Liverpool, L3 3AF, UK. – I. S. Jónsdóttir, University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS), Post box 156, Longyearbyen, N-9171 Svalbard, Norway.


Open Top Chambers (OTCs) were used to measure impacts of predicted global warming on the structure of the invertebrate community of a Dryas octopetala heath in West Spitsbergen. Results from the OTC experiment were compared with natural variation in invertebrate community structure along a snowmelt transect through similar vegetation up the adjacent hillside. Changes along this transect represent the natural response of the invertebrate community to progressively longer and potentially warmer and drier growing seasons. Using MANOVA, ANOVA, Linear Discriminant Analysis and χ2 tests, significant differences in community composition were found between OTCs and controls and among stations along the transect. Numbers of cryptostigmatic and predatory mites tended to be higher in the warmer OTC treatment but numbers of the aphid Acyrthosiphon svalbardicum, hymenopterous parasitoids, Symphyta larvae, and weevils were higher in control plots. Most Collembola, including Hypogastrura tullbergi, Lepidocyrtus lignorum and Isotoma anglicana, followed a similar trend to the aphid, but Folsomia bisetosa was more abundant in the OTC treatment. Trends along the transect showed clear parallels with the OTC experiment. However, mite species, particularly Diapterobates notatus, tended to increase in numbers under warming, with several species collectively increasing at the earlier exposed transect stations. Overall, the results suggest that the composition and structure of Arctic invertebrate communities associated with Dryas will change significantly under global warming.