, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 269-276

Evaluating spatial autocorrelation and depletion in pitfall-trap studies of environmental gradients

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Abstract

Studies of environmental gradients like edge effects commonly employ designs where samples are collected at unequal distances within transects. This approach risks confounding species patterns caused by the environmental gradient with patterns resulting from the spatial arrangement of the sampling scheme. Spatial autocorrelation and depletion (reduced catch) have the potential to influence pitfall-trap collections of invertebrates. Readily available control data from a study of edge and riparian effects on forest litter beetles was used to assess autocorrelation and depletion effects. Data from control transects distant from the treatment transects located at habitat edges and streams were screened to determine whether the study design (pitfall traps at varying distances within transects) was imposing patterns on the data attributable to differential autocorrelation or depletion. Autocorrelation in species composition and assemblage structure was not detected within the 99 m transects. The abundance and species richness of beetles were not lower where traps were in closer proximity, indicating that the transect design was not causing measurable depletion or resulting in differential trap catch. These findings indicate that spatial autocorrelation and depletion are unlikely to impair further analyses of edge and riparian effects on litter beetles.