Contrasting responses of springtails and mites to elevation and vegetation type in the sub-Arctic

Climate change is affecting the species composition and functioning of Arctic and sub-Arctic plant and soil communities. Here we studied patterns in soil microarthropod (springtails and mites) communities across a gradient of increasing elevation that spanned 450 m, across which mean temperature declined by approximately 2.5 degrees C, in sub-Arctic Sweden. Across this gradient we characterized microarthropod communities in each of two types of vegetation, i.e., heath and meadow, to determine whether their responses to declining temperature differed with vegetation type. Mite abundance declined with increasing elevation, while springtail abundance showed the opposite response. Springtail communities were dominated by larger species at higher elevation. Mite abundance was unaffected by vegetation type, while springtail abundance was 53% higher in the heath than meadow vegetation across the gradient. Springtails but not mites responded differently to elevation in heath and meadow vegetation; hemi-edaphic species dominated in the heath at higher elevation while epiedaphic species dominated in the meadow. Our results suggest that sub-Arctic mite and springtail communities will likely respond in contrasting ways to changes in vegetation and soil properties resulting from climate warming.