Do arthropod assemblages fit the grassland and savanna biomes of South Africa?

Keywords: species distribution, arthropod trophic groups, cluster analysis, biome-specificity, arthropod species composition

Abstract

The long-standing tradition of classifying South Africa’s biogeographical area into biomes is commonly linked to vegetation structure and climate. Because arthropod communities are often governed by both these factors, it can be expected that arthropod communities would fit the biomes. To test this hypothesis, we considered how well arthropod species assemblages fit South Africa’s grassy biomes. Arthropod assemblages were sampled from six localities across the grassland and savanna biomes by means of suction sampling, to determine whether the two biomes have distinctive arthropod assemblages. Arthropod samples of these biomes clustered separately in multidimensional scaling analyses. Within biomes, arthropod assemblages were more distinctive for savanna localities than grassland. Arthropod samples of the two biomes clustered together when trophic groups were considered separately, suggesting some similarity in functional assemblages. Dissimilarity was greatest between biomes for phytophagous and predacious trophic groups, with most pronounced differentiation between biomes at sub-escarpment localities. Our results indicate that different arthropod assemblages do fit the grassy biomes to some extent, but the pattern is not as clear as it is for plant species.

Significance: 
  • Provides the first comparison of arthropod composition between grassland and savanna biomes of South Africa.
  • Explores whether these two biomes show distinct arthropod assemblages.
  • Documents the characteristics of arthropod assemblages.
  • Confirms that plant assemblages of biomes are more distinguishable than arthropod assemblages.
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Published
2016-09-28