Ground-dwelling arthropod communities of a sky island mountain range in southeastern Arizona, USA: Obtaining a baseline for assessing the effects of climate change

Wallace M. Meyer, Jeffrey A. Eble, Kimberly Franklin, Reilly B. McManus, Sandra L. Brantley, Jeff Henkel, Paul E. Marek, W. Eugene Hall, Carl A. Olson, Ryan McInroy, Emmanuel M. Bernal Loaiza, Richard C. Brusca, Wendy Moore

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


The few studies that have addressed past effects of climate change on species distributions have mostly focused on plants due to the rarity of historical faunal baselines. However, hyperdiverse groups like Arthropoda are vital to monitor in order to understand climate change impacts on biodiversity. This is the first investigation of ground-dwelling arthropod (GDA) assemblages along the full elevation gradient of a mountain range in the Madrean Sky Island Region, establishing a baseline for monitoring future changes in GDA biodiversity. To determine how GDA assemblages relate to elevation, season, abiotic variables, and corresponding biomes, GDA were collected for two weeks in both spring (May) and summer (September) 2011 in the Santa Catalina Mountains, Arizona, using pitfall traps at 66 sites in six distinct upland (non-riparian/non-wet canyon) biomes. Four arthropod taxa: (1) beetles (Coleoptera), (2) spiders (Araneae), (3) grasshoppers and crickets (Orthoptera), and (4) millipedes and centipedes (Myriapoda) were assessed together and separately to determine if there are similar patterns across taxonomic groups.We collected 335 species of GDA: 192/3793 (species/specimens) Coleoptera, 102/1329 Araneae, 25/523 Orthoptera, and 16/697 Myriapoda. GDA assemblages differed among all biomes and between seasons. Fifty-three percent (178 species) and 76% (254 species) of all GDA species were found in only one biome and during only one season, respectively. While composition of arthropod assemblages is tied to biome and season, individual groups do not show fully concordant patterns. Seventeen percent of the GDA species occurred only in the two highest-elevation biomes (Pine and Mixed Conifer Forests). Because these high elevation biomes are most threatened by climate change and they harbor a large percentage of unique arthropod species (11-25% depending on taxon), significant loss in arthropod diversity is likely in the Santa Catalina Mountains and other isolated mountain ranges in the Southwestern US.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere0135210
JournalPloS one
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • General


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