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  Terrestrial arthropods  
 
TERRESTRIAL ARTHROPODS

Some arctic terrestrial arthropods such as insects and spiders have been identified as irreplaceable plant pollinators, important soil fertilizers and significant elements of the Arctic food web. However, in the Canadian Arctic tundra, very little is known on most arthropod communities, their ecological roles, and their potential response to global warming. Arthropods are known to be highly responsive to temperature and their growth and reproduction are limited to a very narrow window of favorable climatic conditions in the Arctic. This generates a short-lived peak in abundance and activity over the summer.

On Bylot Island, many species of insectivorous birds depend on arthropods to survive and breed successfully. It is critical and challenging for these birds to synchronize their hatch dates with the narrow peak in arthropod availability, which occurs in mid-summer. Climate changes will very likely affect the timing and magnitude of this peak. Potential effects of these changes on arctic insectivore populations are unknown and we are currently trying to document the adaptability of insectivores to their rapidly changing breeding environment (see shorebirds). Since 2005, temporal and spatial variation in arthropod abundance is monitored in order to acquire information on factors affecting their populations and to better understand their interactions with insectivorous birds.

Syrphidae, © Raymond Chabot

Traps specially designed to capture ground dwelling arthropods and low flying insects are used to track arthropod communities in mesic and wetland habitats.

Malaise trap transect, © Laura McKinnon

RESULTS

Arthropod Diversity

From 2005 to 2007, many spiders and mites were collected along with representatives of 33 families of insects. The insects collected were mostly flies, some sawflies and a few beetles. For a complete list of arthropods present on Bylot Island, take a look at our arthropod list.

Peak of Arthropod Activity

Arthropod abundance peaked at similar dates in 2005 (14 July) and 2006 (12 July). Mean daily temperature clearly had an effect on the number of arthropods collected over the summer.