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Small-scale heterogeneity in temperate forest canopy arthropods: stratification of spider and beetle assemblages

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 July 2012

Kathleen R. Aikens
Department of Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University, Macdonald Campus, 21, 111 Lakeshore Road, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec, Canada H9X 3V9
Christopher M. Buddle*
Department of Natural Resource Sciences, McGill University, Macdonald Campus, 21, 111 Lakeshore Road, Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue, Québec, Canada H9X 3V9
1Corresponding author (e-mail:


Vertical gradients in biotic and abiotic factors may create small-scale spatial variation in arthropod communities, a phenomenon that continues to be understudied. We investigated heterogeneity in the vertical distribution of spider and beetle assemblages in the canopy of sugar maples (Acer saccharum Marshall) (Aceraceae) in a deciduous forest in eastern Canada. Comparisons across four strata (understorey [UN] through upper canopy [UC] crown) documented variation in density, diversity, and species composition. Density of all common families decreased significantly with height and overall species richness of both spiders and beetles was highest in the UN and lowest in the UC crown. We observed greater spatial variation in spider assemblages compared with beetle assemblages and documented differences in spider guild structure: web-spinning spiders were most common in the UN and jumping spiders dominated the canopy. Our results suggest that arthropod assemblages are not homogeneous with respect to vertical space and that heterogeneity exists even at the scale of several metres.


Les gradients verticaux des facteurs biotiques et abiotiques peuvent produire des variations spatiales à petite échelle dans les communautés d'arthropodes, un phénomène qui reste encore peu étudié. Nous examinons l'hétérogénéité de la répartition spatiale de peuplements d'araignées et de coléoptères dans la canopée d’érables à sucre (Acer saccharum Marshall) (Aceraceae) dans une forêt décidue de l'est du Canada. La comparaison de quatre strates (du sous-bois à la cime supérieure de la canopée) montre des variations de densité, de diversité et de composition d'espèces. La densité de toutes les familles communes décroît significativement en fonction de la hauteur et la richesse spécifique globale, tant des araignées que des coléoptères, atteint son maximum dans le sous-bois et son minimum dans la cime supérieure de la canopée. Nous observons une variation spatiale plus importante chez les peuplements d'araignées que chez les peuplements de coléoptères, ainsi que des différences dans les guildes d'araignées, car les araignées tisseuses de toile sont plus communes dans le sous-bois et les araignées sauteuses dominent dans la canopée. Nos résultats indiquent que les peuplements d'arthropodes ne sont pas homogènes en fonction de l'espace vertical et qu'il existe une hétérogénéité même à l’échelle de quelques mètres.

Original Article
Copyright © Entomological Society of Canada 2012

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