Habitat Type Affects Elevational Patterns in Ground-dwelling Arthropod Communities

Derek A. Uhey, Matthew A. Bowker, Karen A. Haubensak, David Auty, Sneha Vissa, Richard W. Hofstetter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Understanding factors that drive biodiversity distributions is central in ecology and critical to conservation. Elevational gradients are useful for studying the effects of climate on biodiversity but it can be difficult to disentangle climate effects from resource differences among habitat types. Here we compare elevational patterns and influences of environmental variables on ground-dwelling arthropods in open- A nd forested-habitats. We examine these comparisons in three arthropod functional groups (detritivores, predators, and herbivores) and two taxonomic groups (beetles and arachnids). We sampled twelve sites spanning 1,132 m elevation and four life zones, collecting 4,834 individual ground arthropods identified to 123 taxa. Elevation was a strong predicator for arthropod composition, however, patterns differed among functional and taxonomic groups and individual species between open- A nd forested-habitats. Beetles, arachnids, and predators decreased with elevation in open habitats but increased in forests showing a significant interaction between habitat type and elevation. Detritivores and herbivores showed no elevational patterns. We found 11 arthropod taxa with linear elevational patterns, seven that peaked in abundance at high elevations, and four taxa at low elevations. We also found eight taxa with parabolic elevational patterns that peaked in abundance at mid-elevations. We found that vegetation composition and productivity had stronger explanatory power for arthropod composition in forested habitats, while ground cover was a stronger predictor in open habitats. Temperature and precipitation were important in both habitats. Our findings demonstrate that relationships between animal diversity and elevation can be mediated by habitat type, suggesting that physiological restraints and resource limitations work differently between habitat types.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9
JournalJournal of Insect Science
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2022


  • Colorado Plateau
  • altitude
  • arachnids
  • beetle
  • climate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science


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