This study was carried out at Ny-Ålesund on Spitsbergen in Svalbard (High Arctic). Eight study sites were established along a transect from the fjord to the snout of the glacier. The sites differed from each other by the type of vegetation cover and soil characteristics. Soil samples were collected and placed in Tullgren funnels. Extracted arthropods were represented by two groups of mites (Mesostigmata and Oribatida) and springtails (Collembola). The pioneer species that occurred first after retreat of the glacier were representatives of the Collembola (Agrenia bidenticulata and Hypogastrura concolor). Later, other springtails appeared including Folsomia alpha, Folsomia quadrioculata, Hypogastrura concolor, Isotoma anglicana, Sminthurinus concolor and the first species of oribatid mites; Camisia foveolata and Tectocepheus velatus velatus. Arthropod communities recorded along the transect were characterized by large variations in both species composition and abundance of individuals. The greater the distance from the glacier snout, the greater the species richness (2 to 22 species). The mean number of species per sample was the lowest at site 8 (1 ± 0.71) (the closest to the glacier) and greatest at site 1 (14 ± 1.41) (furthest from the glacier). The Simpson's diversity index (D) was distinctly greater at sites 1 (4.61 ± 0.06) and 3 (3.94 ± 0.11) than at other sites, especially site 8 (1.07 ± 0.06). Densities were least in the samples closest to the glacier (30 to 101 individuals; density 3000-10,100 individuals/m2). At the other locations, abundance was highly variable (905 to 7432 individuals; density 90,500-743,200 individuals/m2). The mean abundances were greatest at sites 2 and 3. The great variations in total abundances observed were often due to the presence or absence of one or more dominant species exhibiting extreme abundance variability between sites. The microarthropod community of the High Arctic is composed of heterogeneous circumpolar species, yet on a landscape scale is extremely dependent on local environmental conditions which may be subject to rapid change.
Keywords: Spitsbergen; colonisation; community assembly; dispersal; species richness; succession.