Here, we explore 200 years of arthropod succession by using dated moraines in a Norwegian glacier foreland. Surface active beetles (Coleoptera) and spiders (Aranea) were sampled by pitfall trapping, and springtails (Collembola) and mites (Acari) were extracted from soil samples. Newly deglaciated ground was rapidly colonised by a mixture of generalists and specialists, with various life strategies. Interestingly, the pioneer community was fed by three ‘invisible’ food sources: biofilm with terrestrial diatom algae, tiny pioneer mosses and chironomid midges whose larvae were pond-living and used ancient carbon that was released by the melting glacier as an energy source. The true ‘super-pioneers’ were biofilm-eating springtails, which tracked the melting ice edge closely. Most species of beetles and springtails colonised within 80 years, while spiders and oribatid mites needed a longer time span to colonise. Topography influenced the succession pattern. Among both surface-living macroarthropods and soil-living microarthropods, we distinguished between a ‘dry’ and a ‘wet’ successional pathway with different community structure. Most arthropod species persisted after colonisation, but certain species preferring open space or low temperature were gradually excluded. Comparisons are made with botanical succession. Sampling methods, material size, and taxonomic resolution were considered critical factors when studying arthropod succession.
Part of the book: Glacier Evolution in a Changing World