Seasonal Distribution and Diversity of Ground Arthropods in Microhabitats Following a Shrub Plantation Age Sequence in Desertified Steppe

Rentao Liu, Fan Zhu, Naiping Song, Xinguo Yang, Yongqing Chai

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41 Scopus citations


In desertified regions, shrub-dominated patches are important microhabitats for ground arthropod assemblages. As shrub age increases, soil, vegetation and microbiological properties can change remarkably and spontaneously across seasons. However, relatively few studies have analyzed how ground arthropods respond to the microhabitats created by shrubs of different plantation ages across seasons. Using 6, 15, 24 and 36 year-old plantations of re-vegetated shrubs (Caragana koushinskii) in the desert steppe of northwestern China as a model system, we sampled ground arthropod communities using a pitfall trapping method in the microhabitats under shrubs and in the open areas between shrubs, during the spring, summer and autumn. The total ground arthropod assemblage was dominated by Carabidae, Melolonthidae, Curculionidae, Tenebrionidae and Formicidae that were affected by plantation age, seasonal changes, or the interaction between these factors, with the later two groups also influenced by microhabitat. Overall, a facilitative effect was observed, with more arthropods and a greater diversity found under shrubs as compared to open areas, but this was markedly affected by seasonal changes. There was a high degree of similarity in arthropod assemblages and diversity between microhabitats in summer and autumn. Shrub plantation age significantly influenced the distribution of the most abundant groups, and also the diversity indices of the ground arthropods. However, there was not an overall positive relationship between shrub age and arthropod abundance, richness or diversity index. The influence of plantation age on arthropod communities was also affected by seasonal changes. From spring through summer to autumn, community indices of ground arthropods tended to decline, and a high degree of similarity in these indices (with fluctuation) was observed among different ages of shrub plantation in autumn. Altogether the recovery of arthropod communities was markedly affected by seasonal variability, and they demonstrated distinctive communal fingerprints in different microhabitats for each plantation age stage.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere77962
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number10
StatePublished - 21 Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes


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