Polar Biology

, Volume 39, Issue 12, pp 2263–2272 | Cite as

High spatial variation in terrestrial arthropod species diversity and composition near the Greenland ice cap

  • Rikke Reisner HansenEmail author
  • Oskar Liset Pryds Hansen
  • Joseph James Bowden
  • Signe Normand
  • Christian Bay
  • Jesper Givskov Sørensen
  • Toke Thomas Høye
Original Paper


Arthropods form a major part of the terrestrial species diversity in the Arctic, and are particularly sensitive to temporal changes in the abiotic environment. It is assumed that most Arctic arthropods are habitat generalists and that their diversity patterns exhibit low spatial variation. The empirical basis for this assumption, however, is weak. We examine the degree of spatial variation in species diversity and assemblage structure among five habitat types at two sites of similar abiotic conditions and plant species composition in southwest Greenland, using standardized field collection methods for spiders, beetles and butterflies. We employed non-metric multidimensional scaling, species richness estimation, community dissimilarity and indicator species analysis to test for local (within site)- and regional (between site)-scale differences in arthropod communities. To identify specific drivers of local arthropod assemblages, we used a combination of ordination techniques and linear regression. Species richness and the species pool differed between sites, with the latter indicating high species turnover. Local-scale assemblage patterns were related to soil moisture and temperature. We conclude that Arctic arthropod species assemblages vary substantially over short distances due to local soil characteristics, while regional variation in the species pool is likely influenced by geographic barriers, i.e., inland ice sheet, glaciers, mountains and large water bodies. In order to predict future changes to Arctic arthropod diversity, further efforts are needed to disentangle contemporary drivers of diversity at multiple spatial scales.


Araneae Biodiversity Climate change Coleoptera Habitat heterogeneity Lepidoptera 



We gratefully acknowledge logistical support from the Arctic Research Centre (ARC), Aarhus University. This work is a contribution to the Arctic Science Partnership (ASP) We would also like to thank the Natural History Museum, Aarhus for use of laboratory and equipment during the identification process. TTH was supported by a Jens Christian Skou fellowship at the Aarhus Institute of Advanced Studies, and SN was supported by the Villum foundation’s Young Investigator Programme (VKR023456).

Supplementary material

300_2016_1893_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (90 kb)
Online Resource 1 Within-habitat plant species occurrence data for site A and B. Occurrences are marked with an x (PDF 89 kb)
300_2016_1893_MOESM2_ESM.xlsx (30 kb)
Online Resource 2 Raw data containing arthropod species abundances coupled with habitat information, sampling periods and coordinates (XLSX 29 kb)
300_2016_1893_MOESM3_ESM.pdf (152 kb)
Online Resource 3 Means and standard errors of all variables measured along with results of environmental fitting. All variables were regressed against the ordination axes from the non-metric multidimensional scaling from both site A and site B. The results of pairwise t test comparing the variables from site A with variables from site B and showing p values, degrees of freedom and t values. (PDF 152 kb)
300_2016_1893_MOESM4_ESM.pdf (82 kb)
Online Resource 4: Plant species richness (± Standard Error) for Hill number q = 0 between sites. Site A and B are represented by white and black colors, respectively. Significant difference (p < 0.05) between sites is indicated with *. (PDF 82 kb)
300_2016_1893_MOESM5_ESM.pdf (81 kb)
Online Resource 5: Estimated plant species richness for Hill number q = 0 within site. Site A and B are represented by white and black colors, respectively. Significant difference (p < 0.05) between habitats at the two different sites is indicated with * (PDF 81 kb)
300_2016_1893_MOESM6_ESM.pdf (83 kb)
Online Resource 6: Venn diagrams based on percentages of plant species unique to site A (white) and species unique to site B (black). (PDF 83 kb)
300_2016_1893_MOESM7_ESM.pdf (136 kb)
Online Resource 7: Plot of non-metric multidimensional scaling analysis for plants. Site A indicated with white symbols and site B is indicated with black symbols. Each dot is representative of the species composition in that specific plot. (PDF 135 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Arctic Research CentreAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark
  2. 2.Department of Bioscience, AarhusAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark
  3. 3.Department of Bioscience, RoskildeAarhus UniversityRoskildeDenmark
  4. 4.Aarhus Institute of Advanced StudiesAarhus UniversityAarhus CDenmark
  5. 5.Department of Bioscience, KaløAarhus UniversityRøndeDenmark

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