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Data from: Land use change through the lens of macroecology: insights from Azorean arthropods and the Maximum Entropy Theory of Ecology

Cite this dataset

Brush, Micah; Matthews, Tom; Borges, Paulo; Harte, John (2022). Data from: Land use change through the lens of macroecology: insights from Azorean arthropods and the Maximum Entropy Theory of Ecology [Dataset]. Dryad.


Abstract from Brush et al. (2022) Ecography: Human activity and land management practices, in particular land use change, have resulted in the global loss of biodiversity. These types of disturbance affect the shape of macroecological patterns, and therefore analyzing these patterns can provide insights into how ecosystems are affected by land use change. We here use arthropod census data from 96 sites at Terceira Island in the Azores archipelago across four different land uses of increasing management intensity: native forest, exotic forest, semi-natural pasture, and intensive pasture, to examine the effects of land use type on three macroecological patterns: the species abundance distribution, the metabolic rate distribution of individuals, and the species--area relationship. The Maximum Entropy Theory of Ecology (METE) has successfully predicted these patterns across habitats and taxa in undisturbed ecosystems, and thus provides a null expectation for their shapes. Across these patterns, we find that the forest habitats are the best fit by METE predictions, while the semi-natural pasture is consistently the worst fit, and the intensive pasture is intermediately well fit. We show that the direction of failure of the METE predictions at the pasture sites is likely due to the hyper-dominance of introduced spider species present there. We hypothesize that the particularly poor fit for the semi-natural pasture is due to the mix of arthropod communities out of equilibrium, leading to greater heterogeneity in composition and complex dynamics that violate METE's assumption of static state variables. The comparative better fit for the intensive pasture plausibly results from more homogeneous arthropod communities that are well adapted to intensive management, and thus whose state variables are less in flux. Analyzing deviations from theoretical predictions across land use type provides useful information about how land use and disturbance affect ecosystems, and such comparisons could be useful across other habitats and taxa.


The arthropod samples were collected using pitfall traps across 96 sites at Terceira Island in the Azores archipelago. Each of the sites has a single 150 m transect with 30 pitfall traps spaced out at 5 m intervals: 15 traps filled with approximately 60 mL of a non-attractive solution (anti-freeze liquid) with a small proportion of ethylene glycol, and 15 traps with the same volume of a general attractive solution (Turquin), which was made of dark beer and some preservatives. All data were collected over summers on Terceira Island over the period from 1997-2009 (for more details, see Borges et al. (2005) Biodiversity & Conservation 14.9, Cardoso et al. (2009) Acta Oecologica 35.5, and Rigal et al. (2018) Diversity and Distributions 24.1).

Body size measurements included are averages, and body mass is calculated using scaling relationships as outlined in the supporting information of Brush et al. (2022) Ecography.

Usage notes

A Readme is included with more information about how this data was used in relation to the ecography paper, and what each file contains.


Direcção Regional de Ciência e Tecnologia, Award: M.2.1.2/I/003/2008

Direcção Regional dos Recursos Florestais, Award: PROJ. 17.01 -- 080203