Heated communities: large inter- and intraspecific variation in heat tolerance across trophic levels of a soil arthropod community

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    Temperature extremes are predicted to increase in frequency, intensity and duration under global warming and are believed to significantly affect community composition and functioning. However, the effect of extreme climatic events on communities remains difficult to predict, especially because species can show dissimilar responses to abiotic changes, which may affect the outcome of species interactions. To anticipate community responses we need knowledge on within and among species variation in stress tolerance. We exposed a soil arthropod community to experimental heat waves in the field and measured heat tolerance of species of different trophic levels from heated and control plots. We measured the critical thermal maximum (CTmax) of individuals to estimate inter- and intraspecific variation in heat tolerance in this community, and how this was affected by experimental heat waves. We found interspecific variation in heat tolerance, with the most abundant prey species, the springtail Isotoma riparia, being more sensitive to high temperatures than its predators (various spider species). Moreover, intraspecific variation in CTmax was substantial, suggesting that individuals within a single species were unequally affected by heat extremes. However, heat tolerance of species did not increase after being exposed to an experimental heat wave. We conclude that interspecific variation in tolerance traits potentially causes trophic mismatches during extreme events, but that intraspecific variation could lessen these effects by enabling partial survival of populations. Therefore, ecophysiological traits can provide a better understanding of abiotic effects on communities, not only within taxonomic or functional groups, but also when comparing different trophic levels.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)311–322
    Number of pages12
    Issue number2
    Early online date9 Dec 2017
    Publication statusPublished - Feb 2018


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