Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 2, pp 319–331 | Cite as

Shrubs and species identity effects on the distribution and diversity of ground-dwelling arthropods in a Gobi desert

  • Feng-Rui Li
  • Ji-Liang Liu
  • Chang-An Liu
  • Qi-Jun Liu
  • Rui-Xue Niu


Disentangling the relationship between shrub vegetation and ground-dwelling arthropods at multiple levels of taxonomic resolution is essential to developing a suitable management strategy for the conservation of shrub-associated arthropod biodiversity in shrubland ecosystems. Using Gobi desert (dominated by shrub species Nitraria sphaerocarpa and Reaumuria soongorica) occurring widely in inland arid areas of northwest China as a model system, we sampled ground-dwelling arthropods by pitfall trapping method under canopies of both shrubs and in intershrub bare areas during spring, summer and autumn. Our aim was to determine whether the presence and species identity of shrubs influence the distribution of ground-dwelling arthropods and whether the influence of shrub presence and species identity differs among trophic and taxonomic groups. At the community level, total arthropod abundance and species richness were significantly greater under shrubs than in intershrub bare habitats, whereas more arthropods were captured under N. sphaerocarpa than under R. soongorica. At the trophic group level, the abundance of predator and decomposer arthropods was significantly greater under shrubs than in intershrub bare habitats, whereas herbivore and decomposer arthropods were more abundant under N. sphaerocarpa than under R. soongorica. At the family level, the abundance of Carabidae, Gnaphosidae, Karschiidae, Tenebrionidae and Thomisidae was consistently much greater under shrubs than in intershrub bare habitats, whereas that of Formicidae, Philodromidae and Tettigoniidae did not differ between the shrub microhabitats and the intershrub bare habitats. However, the abundance of Curculionidae under R. soongorica and the abundance of Geotrupidae under N. sphaerocarpa were significantly lower than that in intershrub bare habitats. N. sphaerocarpa was commonly preferred by arthropods in the families of Curculionidae and Tenebrionidae, whereas R. soongorica was commonly preferred by arthropods in the family Geotrupidae, but shrub species identity did not affect the abundance of the remaining families. Our results suggest that shrubs and species identity play important roles in structuring ground-dwelling arthropod communities, but the response of arthropods differed among trophic or taxonomic groups. This study may have important implications for the conservation of invertebrate biodiversity in Gobi desert ecosystems.


Desert shrubland Ground arthropod diversity Microhabitat selection Shrub–arthropod relationship Trophic and taxonomic groups 



We thank two anonymous referees for helpful comments on an earlier version of this manuscript. We also thank all technicians for assistance in the field. This work was supported by the grants 31170496 and 91025021 from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the grant 41125002 from the National Science Foundation for Distinguished Young Scholars of China.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Feng-Rui Li
    • 1
  • Ji-Liang Liu
    • 1
  • Chang-An Liu
    • 1
  • Qi-Jun Liu
    • 1
  • Rui-Xue Niu
    • 1
  1. 1.Linze Inland River Basin Research Station of Chinese Ecosystem Research Network, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina

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