Interspecific variation in responses to microclimate by terrestrial isopods: implications in relation to climate change

Mark Hassall (Lead / Corresponding author), Anna Moss, Bernice Dixie, James J. Gilroy

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    The importance of considering species-specific biotic interactions when predicting feedbacks between the effects of climate change and ecosystem functions is becoming widely recognised. The responses of soil animals to predicted changes in global climate could potentially have far-reaching consequences for fluxes of soil carbon, including climatic feedbacks resulting from increased emissions of carbon dioxide from soils. The responses of soil animals to different microclimates can be summarised as norms of reaction, in order to compare phenotypic differences in traits along environmental gradients. Thermal and moisture reaction norms for physiological, behavioural and life history traits of species of terrestrial isopods differing in their morphological adaptations for reducing water loss are presented. Gradients of moisture reaction norms for respiratory rates and thermal reaction norms for water loss, for a species from the littoral zone were steeper than those for species from mesic environments. Those for mesic species were steeper than for those from xeric habitats. Within mesic species, gradients of thermal reaction norms for aggregation were steeper for Oniscusasellus than for Porcellioscaber or Armadilliumvulgare, and moisture reaction norms for sheltering and feeding behaviours were steeper for Philosciamuscorum than for either P.scaber or A.vulgare. These differences reflect differences in body shape, permeability of the cuticle, and development of pleopodal lungs. The implications of differences between different species of soil animals in response to microclimate on the possible influence of the soil fauna on soil carbon dynamics under future climates are discussed. In conclusion a modelling approach to bridging the inter-disciplinary gap between carbon cycling and the biology of soil animals is recommended.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)5-24
    Number of pages20
    Issue number801
    Publication statusPublished - 3 Dec 2018


    • Aggregation
    • CO2 emissions from soils
    • feeding behaviour
    • future rainfall patterns
    • life history traits
    • norms of reaction
    • response curves
    • soil animals


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