Taxonomic and Compositional Differences of Ground-Dwelling Arthropods in Riparian Habitats in Glen Canyon, Arizona, USA

Barbara E. Ralston, Neil S. Cobb, Sandra L. Brantley, Jacob Higgins, Charles B. Yackulic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The disturbance history, plant species composition, productivity, and structural complexity of a site can exert bottom-up controls on arthropod diversity, abundance, and trophic structure. Regulation alters the hydrology and disturbance regimes of rivers and affects riparian habitats by changing plant quality parameters. Fifty years of regulation along the Colorado River downstream of Glen Canyon Dam has created a no-analog, postdam "lower" riparian zone close to the water's edge that includes tamarisk (Tamarix sp.), a nonnative riparian shrub. At the same time, the predam "upper" facultative riparian zone has persisted several meters above the current flood stage. In summer 2009, we used pitfall traps within these 2 riparian zones that differ in plant composition, productivity, and disturbance frequency to test for differences in arthropod community (Hymenoptera, Arachnida, and Coleoptera) structure. Arthropod community structure differed substantially between the 2 zones. Arthropod abundance and species richness was highest in the predam upper riparian zone, even though there was a greater amount of standing plant biomass in the postdam lower riparian zone. Omnivore abundance was proportionately greater in the upper riparian zone and was associated with lower estimated productivity values. Predators and detritivores were proportionately greater in the postdam lower riparian zone. In this case, river regulation may create habitats that support species of spiders and carabid beetles, but few other species that are exclusive to this zone. The combined richness found in both zones suggests a small increase in total richness and functional diversity for the Glen Canyon reach of the Colorado River.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-384
Number of pages16
JournalWestern North American Naturalist
Issue number3
StatePublished - Oct 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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