Patterns of biodiversity along elevational gradients elucidate how climate shapes biological communities and help predict ecosystem responses to environmental change. Arid elevational gradients are particularly interesting because temperature limitations at high elevations and precipitation limitations at low elevations cause mid-elevation peaks in diversity. Ground-dwelling arthropods form highly diverse communities but few studies document elevational patterns of their full diversity. Here we investigate the elevational patterns of ground-dwelling arthropods in northern Arizona on the Colorado Plateau, an arid and understudied region in the United States. We sampled seven sites along an elevation gradient from 1,566 to 2,688 m corresponding to a difference of 6.5°C average annual temperature and 620 mm average annual precipitation. We captured 16,942 specimens comprising 169 species, mostly ants and beetles, and discovered a new ant species. First- and second-order elevation terms significantly correlated to multiple measures of arthropod α and β diversity. Arthropod abundance, richness, and Shannon-Wiener diversity index peaked at mid-elevations, with functional groups (i.e., omnivores, predators, detritivores, and herbivores) showing similar patterns. Community composition varied significantly across the gradient, correlated with changes in elevation, and was driven by shifts of ants dominating low- to mid-elevations, to beetles dominating high-elevations. Dissimilarity among sites was driven by high species turnover with 59% of species exclusive to a single site, whereas nestedness among sites was low except at the lowest elevation site. High rates of turnover and elevation-dependent communities suggest that ground-dwelling arthropods are highly vulnerable to environmental change, particularly at lower elevations in arid regions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Insect Science