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Data from: Impacts of rainfall extremes predicted by climate-change models on major trophic groups in the leaf-litter arthropod community

Cite this dataset

Wise, David H.; Lensing, Janet R. (2019). Data from: Impacts of rainfall extremes predicted by climate-change models on major trophic groups in the leaf-litter arthropod community [Dataset]. Dryad.


1. Arthropods in the leaf-litter layer of forest soils influence ecosystem processes such as decomposition. Climate-change models predict both increases and decreases in average rainfall. Increased drought may have greater impacts on the litter arthropod community. In addition to affecting survival or behavior of desiccation-sensitive species, lower rainfall may indirectly lower abundances of consumers that graze drought-stressed fungi, with repercussions for higher trophic levels. 2. We tested the hypothesis that trophic structure will differ between the two rainfall scenarios. In particular, we hypothesized that densities of several broadly defined trophic groupings of arthropods would be lower under reduced rainfall. 3. To test this hypothesis we used sprinklers to impose two rainfall treatments during three growing seasons in roofed, fenced 14-m2 plots; and documented changes in abundance from initial, pre-treatment densities of 39 arthropod taxa. Experimental plots were subjected to either LOW (fortnightly) or HIGH (weekly) average rainfall based upon climate models and the previous 100 years of regional weekly averages. Unroofed open plots, our reference treatment (REF), experienced higher-than-average rainfall during the experiment. 4. The two rainfall extremes produced clear negative effects of lowered rainfall on major trophic groups. Broad categories of fungivores, detritivores and predators were more abundant in HIGH than LOW plots by the final year. Springtails (Collembola), which graze fungal hyphae, were 3x more abundant in the HIGH-rainfall treatment. Taxa of larger-bodied fungivores and detritivores, spiders (Araneae), and non-spider predators were 2x more abundant under HIGH rainfall. Densities of mites (Acari), which include fungivores, detritivores and predators, were 1.5x greater in HIGH rainfall plots. Abundances and community structure of arthropods were similar in REF and experimental plots, showing that effects of rainfall uncovered in the experiment are applicable to nature. 5. This pattern suggests that changes in rainfall will alter bottom-up control processes in a critical detritus-based food web of deciduous forests. Our results, in conjunction with other findings on the impact of desiccation on arthropods and fungal growth, suggest that drier conditions will depress densities of fungal consumers, causing declines in higher trophic levels, with possible impacts on soil processes and the larger forest food web.

Usage notes


National Science Foundation, Award: DEB-9815842, DEB-0735236


United States of America