Observed trends of soil fauna in the Antarctic Dry Valleys: early signs of shifts predicted under climate change

TitleObserved trends of soil fauna in the Antarctic Dry Valleys: early signs of shifts predicted under climate change
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsAndriuzzi, WS, Adams, B, Barrett, JE, Virginia, RA, Wall, DH
Pagination312 - 321
Date Published02/2018

Long-term observations of ecological communities are necessary for generating and testing predictions of ecosystem responses to climate change. We investigated temporal trends and spatial patterns of soil fauna along similar environmental gradients in three sites of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, spanning two distinct climatic phases: a decadal cool- ing trend from the early 1990s through the austral summer of February 2001, followed by a shift to the current trend of warming summers and more frequent discrete warming events. After February 2001, we observed a decline in the dominant species (the nematode Scottnema lindsayae) and increased abundance and expanded distribution of less common taxa (rotifers, tardigrades, and other nematode species). Such diverging responses have resulted in slightly greater evenness and spatial homogeneity of taxa. However, total abundance of soil fauna appears to be declining, as positive trends of the less common species so far have not compen- sated for the declining numbers of the dominant species. Interannual variation in the propor- tion of juveniles in the dominant species was consistent across sites, whereas trends in abundance varied more. Structural equation modeling supports the hypothesis that the observed biological trends arose from dissimilar responses by dominant and less common spe- cies to pulses of water availability resulting from enhanced ice melt. No direct effects of mean summer temperature were found, but there is evidence of indirect effects via its weak but signif- icant positive relationship with soil moisture. Our findings show that combining an under- standing of species responses to environmental change with long-term observations in the field can provide a context for validating and refining predictions of ecological trends in the abun- dance and diversity of soil fauna. 

Short TitleEcology