Seasonal and temporal patterns of rainfall shape arthropod community composition and multi-trophic interactions in an arid environment

Publication Year:

In arid and semi-arid ecosystems, rainfall and rainfall temporal distribution shape species communities and multi-trophic interactions. Whereas the relationship between climate change-induced decline of precipitation and plants is well know, there is little knowledge of these relationships with consumers, such as arthropods of different trophic levels. In a 6-year period we studied precipitation effects and microhabitat conditions on multi-trophic interactions of ground-dwelling arthropods in an arid savannah. We analysed the effects of seasonal rainfall, plant cover and soil texture on community composition and activity density of arthropods of different trophic levels and investigated the critical window of vegetation and occurrence arthropods in relation to rainfall. Our result show, that arthropod community composition was determined by seasonal rainfall and plant cover. Soil texture did not explain arthropod response sufficiently. Especially detritivorous arthropods were strongly affected by precipitation and can therefore serve as indicators of droughts. Further, multi-trophic interactions can better be explained by short-term rainfall pulses, rather than by seasonal patterns, with a window of seven days being most suitable to explain the influence of rainfall. Plant cover responded immediately after the rainfall, followed by herbivorous and predatory arthropods, and with a lag of 23 days omnivorous arthropods. This highlights the importance of short-term rain pulses for multi-trophic interactions among arthropods and emphasized the relevance of studying detailed precipitation effects for the arthropod diversity and ecosystem stability in arid ecosystems.

Publication Title:

Scientific Reports

Item Type:
Journal Article

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