Polar Biology

, Volume 41, Issue 8, pp 1619–1633 | Cite as

Macroinvertebrate and soil prokaryote communities in the forest–tundra ecotone of the Subarctic Yukon

  • Shaun Turney
  • Ianina Altshuler
  • Lyle G. Whyte
  • Christopher M. Buddle
Original Paper


The forest–tundra interface is the world’s largest ecotone, and is globally important due to its biodiversity, climatic sensitivity, and natural resources. The ecological communities which characterize this ecotone, and which provide local and global ecosystem services, are affected by environmental variation at multiple scales. We explored correlations between environmental variables and macroinvertebrate and soil prokaryote communities in the forest–tundra ecotone of the Yukon, Canada. We found that each tussock tundra site possessed a distinct community of macroinvertebrates and prokaryotes, and therefore represented a unique contribution to regional biodiversity. Prokaryote diversity increased with active layer depth, which could be an effect of temperature, or could be evidence of a species-area effect. Prokaryote diversity decreased with lichen cover, which could be due to antimicrobial properties of lichen. The macroinvertebrate community composition was affected by proximity to a human disturbance, the Dempster Highway. Both macroinvertebrate and prokaryote community compositions changed along the latitudinal transect, as the biome transitioned from taiga to tundra. We also found that the abundance of carnivores relative to herbivores decreased with latitude, which adds to recent evidence that predation decreases with latitude. Our survey yielded new insights about how macro- and microorganisms vary together and independently in relation to environmental variables at multiple scales in a forest–tundra ecotone.


Community structure Entomology Bacteria Soil ecology Biodiversity Tundra 



The authors thank Anne-Sophie Caron for her dedicated field work assistance, Scot E. Dowd for his excellent DNA sequencing services, and the anonymous reviewers and the guest editor Lauren Culler who provided helpful feedback. This project was possible due to funding from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada: A Discovery Grant and Northern Research Supplement to CMB and a Postgraduate Scholarship-Doctoral to ST. This study was further supported by a W. Garfield Weston Award for Northern Research (Doctoral) from the Canadian Northern Studies Trust to ST.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This research was permitted under the Yukon Scientists and Explorer’s Act, License Number: 15-10S and E. Research activity within Tombstone Territorial Park (Sites 4 and 5) was permitted by a Research and Education Park Permit, Permit Number 15-RE-TP-01. Additionally, permission was sought and granted from all relevant First Nations (Tr’ondek Hwech’in, Tetlit Gwich’in, and Vuntut Gwitchin). All applicable international, national, and institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shaun Turney
    • 1
  • Ianina Altshuler
    • 1
  • Lyle G. Whyte
    • 1
  • Christopher M. Buddle
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Natural Resource SciencesMcGill University Macdonald CampusSt. Anne de BellevueCanada

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