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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2018 Oct 30;115(44):E10397-E10406. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1722477115. Epub 2018 Oct 15.

Climate-driven declines in arthropod abundance restructure a rainforest food web.

Author information

1
Department of Biological Sciences, Rensselaer Polytechnic University, Troy, NY 12180; listeb@rpi.edu.
2
Estación de Biología Chamela, Instituto de Biología, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 47152 Chamela, Jalisco, Mexico.

Abstract

A number of studies indicate that tropical arthropods should be particularly vulnerable to climate warming. If these predictions are realized, climate warming may have a more profound impact on the functioning and diversity of tropical forests than currently anticipated. Although arthropods comprise over two-thirds of terrestrial species, information on their abundance and extinction rates in tropical habitats is severely limited. Here we analyze data on arthropod and insectivore abundances taken between 1976 and 2012 at two midelevation habitats in Puerto Rico's Luquillo rainforest. During this time, mean maximum temperatures have risen by 2.0 °C. Using the same study area and methods employed by Lister in the 1970s, we discovered that the dry weight biomass of arthropods captured in sweep samples had declined 4 to 8 times, and 30 to 60 times in sticky traps. Analysis of long-term data on canopy arthropods and walking sticks taken as part of the Luquillo Long-Term Ecological Research program revealed sustained declines in abundance over two decades, as well as negative regressions of abundance on mean maximum temperatures. We also document parallel decreases in Luquillo's insectivorous lizards, frogs, and birds. While El Niño/Southern Oscillation influences the abundance of forest arthropods, climate warming is the major driver of reductions in arthropod abundance, indirectly precipitating a bottom-up trophic cascade and consequent collapse of the forest food web.

KEYWORDS:

arthropods; bottom-up cascade; climate warming; food web; rainforest

PMID:
30322922
PMCID:
PMC6217376
DOI:
10.1073/pnas.1722477115
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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