Arthropods in urban habitat fragments in southern California: Area, age, and edge effects

Douglas T. Bolger, Andrew V. Suarez, Kevin R. Crooks, Scott A. Morrison, Ted J. Case

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The distribution of non-ant arthropods was examined in 40 urban habitat fragments in coastal San Diego County, California, USA, to look for effects of fragmentation, proximity to developed edge, and the non-native Argentine ant (Linepithema humile). Arthropods were sampled with pitfall traps and by vacuum sampling from California buckwheat shrubs (Eriogonum fasciculatum). Individual arthropods were identified to order and Recognizable Taxonomic Unit (RTU), or morphospecies. At the fragment scale we looked for correlations in the point diversity and abundance of arthropods as a function of the age and area of the fragment being sampled. At the scale of the individual sample points we looked for correlations of abundance and diversity with variables that describe the species composition of the shrub vegetation and disturbance. As indicators of disturbance we used the cover of native woody and exotic non-woody vegetation, the distance to the nearest developed edge, and the abundance of Argentine ants. The following patterns were found: (1) In general, arthropods showed a fragmentation effect with point diversity and abundance positively correlated with fragment area and negatively correlated with fragment age. (2) The pitfall samples were dominated by three primarily non-native orders, Isopoda (pillbugs), Dermaptera (earwigs), and Blattaria (roaches). Over 35% of all pitfall-captured arthropods belonged to four species in these orders. Dermaptera and Blattaria increased in abundance in smaller and older fragments, respectively. Isopod abundance, in contrast, was unrelated to fragment attributes. None of these groups appeared to be associated with edges, but were distributed throughout the fragments. (3) Point diversity and abundance in ground-active spiders appears to be enhanced by fragmentation. (4) Total pitfall RTU richness and abundance, and abundance or richness in the Coleoptera (vacuum), Diptera, non-ant Hymenoptera, Hemiptera, Microcoryphia, and Acarina had significant partial negative correlations with Argentine ant abundance. The Diptera and Coleoptera had this negative partial relationship with the Argentine ants despite the fact that both they and the ants were positively associated with edges. (5) In general, diversity in most orders was higher in sampling locations dominated by coastal sage scrub habitat than in those with appreciable cover of chaparral shrub species. (6) There was a strong seasonal variation in abundance and diversity in most orders. Diversity and abundance were highest in spring, intermediate in winter, and lowest in the fall. (7) Although higher trophic levels are often considered to be more sensitive to fragmentation, two groups of arthropod predators, spiders and carabid beetles, increased in abundance in older fragments. Abundance of these predators was positively correlated with the abundance of Argentine ants and the non-native Isopods, Dermaptera, and Blattaria.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1230-1248
Number of pages19
JournalEcological Applications
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2000
Externally publishedYes


  • Argentine ant
  • Arthropods
  • Edge effects
  • Exotic species
  • Habitat fragmentation
  • Insects
  • Invasion
  • Linepithema humile

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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