Ecosystems at high northern latitudes are subject to strong climate change. Soil processes, such as carbon and nutrient cycles, which determine the functioning of these ecosystems, are controlled by soil fauna. Thus assessing the responses of soil fauna communities to environmental change will improve the predictability of the climate change impacts on ecosystem functioning. For this purpose, trait assessment is a promising method compared to the traditional taxonomic approach, but it has not been applied earlier. In this study the response of a sub-arctic soil Collembola community to long-term (16 years) climate manipulation by open top chambers was assessed. The drought-susceptible Collembola community responded strongly to the climate manipulation, which substantially reduced soil moisture and slightly increased soil temperature. The total density of Collembola decreased by 51% and the average number of species was reduced from 14 to 12. Although community assessment showed species-specific responses, taxonomically based community indices, species diversity and evenness, were not affected. However, morphological and ecological trait assessments were more sensitive in revealing community responses. Drought-tolerant, larger-sized, epiedaphic species survived better under the climate manipulation than their counterparts, the meso-hydrophilic, smaller-sized and euedaphic species. Moreover it also explained the significant responses shown by four taxa. This study shows that trait analysis can both reveal responses in a soil fauna community to climate change and improve the understanding of the mechanisms behind them. © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.