Environmental factors influencing fine-scale distribution of Antarctica’s only endemic insect

Leslie J. Potts, J. D. Gantz, Yuta Kawarasaki, Benjamin N. Philip, David J. Gonthier, Audrey D. Law, Luke Moe, Jason M. Unrine, Rebecca L. McCulley, Richard E. Lee, David L. Denlinger, Nicholas M. Teets

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

Species distributions are dependent on interactions with abiotic and biotic factors in the environment. Abiotic factors like temperature, moisture, and soil nutrients, along with biotic interactions within and between species, can all have strong influences on spatial distributions of plants and animals. Terrestrial Antarctic habitats are relatively simple and thus good systems to study ecological factors that drive species distributions and abundance. However, these environments are also sensitive to perturbation, and thus understanding the ecological drivers of species distribution is critical for predicting responses to environmental change. The Antarctic midge, Belgica antarctica, is the only endemic insect on the continent and has a patchy distribution along the Antarctic Peninsula. While its life history and physiology are well studied, factors that underlie variation in population density within its range are unknown. Previous work on Antarctic microfauna indicates that distribution over broad scales is primarily regulated by soil moisture, nitrogen content, and the presence of suitable plant life, but whether these patterns are true over smaller spatial scales has not been investigated. Here we sampled midges across five islands on the Antarctic Peninsula and tested a series of hypotheses to determine the relative influences of abiotic and biotic factors on midge abundance. While historical literature suggests that Antarctic organisms are limited by the abiotic environment, our best-supported hypothesis indicated that abundance is predicted by a combination of abiotic and biotic conditions. Our results are consistent with a growing body of literature that biotic interactions are more important in Antarctic ecosystems than historically appreciated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)529-539
Number of pages11
JournalOecologia
Volume194
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a United States Department of Agriculture Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant 3200001763 to L.J.P., National Science Foundation grant OPP-1341393 to D.L.D., National Science Foundation grant OPP-1341385 to R.E.L., and United States Department of Agricultural National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch Project grant 1010886 to N.M.T. The authors appreciate the dedicated support staff at Palmer Station for their assistance with this project. Finally, we thank Elizabeth Carlisle and Shristi Shrestha of the Plant and Soil Science Department at the University of Kentucky for their help in analyses.

Funding Information:
This work was supported by a United States Department of Agriculture Agriculture and Food Research Initiative grant 3200001763 to L.J.P., National Science Foundation grant OPP-1341393 to D.L.D., National Science Foundation grant OPP-1341385 to R.E.L., and United States Department of Agricultural National Institute of Food and Agriculture Hatch Project grant 1010886 to N.M.T. The authors appreciate the dedicated support staff at Palmer Station for their assistance with this project. Finally, we thank Elizabeth Carlisle and Shristi Shrestha of the Plant and Soil Science Department at the University of Kentucky for their help in analyses.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s).

Keywords

  • Abiotic environment
  • Antarctic midge
  • Biotic influences
  • Spatial distribution

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Fingerprint

Dive into the research topics of 'Environmental factors influencing fine-scale distribution of Antarctica’s only endemic insect'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this