Arthropod populations in a sub-arctic environment facing climate change over a half-century: variability but no general trend

Göran Andersson, Ted von Proschwitz, Christoffer Fägerström, Martin Green, Henrik G. Smith, Åke Lindström

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Dramatic declines of some arthropod populations have recently received a lot of attention. Identified declines have mainly been attributed to changes in agriculture, climate, pathogen prevalence and light pollution, as well as cross-regional effects of, e.g., drifting pesticides. However, the overall picture is complex and debated, and there is a need for systematically collected long-term data, not least from areas relatively unaffected by humans. We monitored the abundance of arthropods (mainly insects) in subalpine birch forest in Swedish Lapland over a period of 53 years (1968–2020), in an area comparatively unaffected by human activities. Arthropod abundance was assessed by yearly systematic counts on 24,000 birch shoots, in the second half of June. Animals were categorised into 17 different groups directly upon counting, dependent on taxonomy and life stage (imago, larva). Overall, there was no significant change in arthropod numbers. Nor did estimates of the total biomass of arthropods (using group-specific indices of the mass of individuals) show any significant trend. Accordingly, there are no signs that the arthropod abundance or biomass on birch in this subarctic study site has gone through the same declines as have been reported from sites in other habitats. The reason may be that the impact of factors identified worldwide as drivers of arthropod declines so far are small or non-existent because of the low human population density in this area.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)534-542
JournalInsect Conservation and Diversity
Issue number5
Early online date2022 Mar 9
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology

Free keywords

  • insects
  • long-term trend
  • subalpine birch forest
  • Swedish Lapland
  • systematic sampling


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