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Open Access Open Badges Research article

The influence of weather conditions on the activity of high-arctic arthropods inferred from long-term observations

Toke T Høye123* and Mads C Forchhammer13

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Arctic Environment, National Environmental Research Institute, University of Aarhus, PO Box 358 Frederiksborgvej 399, DK-4000 Roskilde, Denmark

2 Current Address: Department of Wildlife Ecology and Biodiversity, National Environmental Research Institute, University of Aarhus, Grenåvej 14, DK-8410 Rønde, Denmark

3 Centre for Integrated Population Ecology,, Denmark

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BMC Ecology 2008, 8:8  doi:10.1186/1472-6785-8-8

Published: 2 May 2008



Climate change is particularly pronounced in the High Arctic and a better understanding of the repercussions on ecological processes like herbivory, predation and pollination is needed. Arthropods play an important role in the high-arctic ecosystem and this role is determined by their density and activity. However, density and activity may be sensitive to separate components of climate. Earlier emergence due to advanced timing of snowmelt following climate change may expose adult arthropods to unchanged temperatures but higher levels of radiation. The capture rate of arthropods in passive open traps like pitfall trap integrates density and activity and, therefore, serves as a proxy of the magnitude of such arthropod-related ecological processes. We used arthropod pitfall trapping data and weather data from 10 seasons in high-arctic Greenland to identify climatic effects on the activity pattern of nine arthropod taxa.


We were able to statistically separate the variation in capture rates into a non-linear component of capture date (density) and a linear component of weather (activity). The non-linear proxy of density always accounted for more of the variation than the linear component of weather. After accounting for the seasonal phenological development, the most important weather variable influencing the capture rate of flying arthropods was temperature, while surface-dwelling species were principally influenced by solar radiation.


Consistent with previous findings, air temperature best explained variation in the activity level of flying insects. An advancement of the phenology in this group due to earlier snowmelt will make individuals appear earlier in the season, but parallel temperature increases could mean that individuals are exposed to similar temperatures. Hence, the effect of climatic changes on the activity pattern in this group may be unchanged. In contrast, we found that solar radiation is a better proxy of activity levels than air temperature in surface-dwelling arthropods. An advancement of the phenology may expose surface-dwelling arthropods to higher levels of solar radiation, which suggest that their locomotory performance is enhanced and their contribution to ecological processes is increased.