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Picture of the Day

Bugging out: Arctic plants under pressure from arthropods

Bugs rule the Arctic. Arthropods make up the majority of animal biomass on the tundra, far outweighing birds or mammals. But responses to seasonal temperature variation still vary among arthropod groups. As a result, as summers become warmer, the composition of these high-arctic arthropod communities is changing. The changes in community composition were up to five times more extreme in drier rather than wet habitats, suggesting that water availability will play a strong role in what types of bugs will succeed in a warming Arctic. With species interactions and food web dynamics in flux, scientists anticipate more ecosystem-level changes are in store. For example, more herbivorous bugs could mean more consumption pressure for Arctic plants, while the decline in detritivores could result in changes in decomposition and soil nutrient cycling.

Visit Website | Image credit: Amanda Koltz, courtesy Washington University in St. Louis