Permafrost dynamics structure species compositions of oribatid mite (Acari: Oribatida) communities in sub-Arctic palsa mires
Palsa mires are sub-Arctic peatland complexes, vulnerable ecosystems with patches of permafrost. Permafrost thawing in palsa mires occurs throughout Fennoscandia, probably due to local climatic warming. In palsa mires, permafrost thaw alters hydrological conditions, vegetation structure and microhabitat composition with unknown consequences for invertebrate fauna. This study's objectives were to examine the role of microhabitat heterogeneity and the effects of permafrost dynamics and thaw on oribatid mite communities in palsa mires. Oribatid mites were sampled in two palsa mires in Finland and Norway. Three different types of microhabitats were examined: graminoid-dominated wet sites, herb-dominated small hummocks and evergreen shrub-dominated permafrost-underlain palsa hummocks. The results indicate that permafrost dynamics are an important factor structuring oribatid mite communities in palsa mires. The community composition of oribatid mites differed remarkably among microhabitats. Six species were significantly more abundant in permafrost-underlain microhabitats in relation to non-permafrost microhabitats. None of the species identified occurred exclusively in permafrost-underlain microhabitats. Findings suggest that permafrost thaw may not have an impact on species diversity but may alter community composition of oribatid mites in palsa mire ecosystems.
Keywords: Biodiversity; community composition; habitat heterogeneity; oribatid mites; palsa mires; permafrost dynamics.
(Published: 14 October 2014)Citation: Polar Research 2014, 33, 22926, http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/polar.v33.22926
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