Are arthropod communities in grassland ecosystems affected by the abundance of an invasive plant?
Invasive plants cause changes to native plant communities and nutrient cycling, and by doing so, may alter the amount and quality of habitat available for animals at multiple trophic levels, including arthropods. Arthropods are generally abundant, diverse, and contribute to energy flow and nutrient cycling and are, therefore, an important group to study as a way of determining the effects of changes to ecosystem functioning. Spotted knapweed (Centaurea stoebe L.), a perennial forb native to Eastern Europe, is considered one of the most ecologically harmful invasive species in Western North America. Here, we test if spotted knapweed alters plant community, ground litter and ground temperature, and arthropod functional group structure and biomass in grassland habitats in British Columbia, Canada. Pitfall traps, installed at 20 sites that differed in spotted knapweed density, were sorted into herbivores, omnivores, predators, detritivores, and parasites. Decreases in herbivore and detritivore biomass was associated with increasing spotted knapweed density. The first two coordinates of a Principle Coordinates Analysis explained a cumulative 60% of the variation, and herbivores were separated from predators on both axes. The results suggest that spotted knapweed density may affect arthropod functional groups through changes in plant community composition, and surface soil temperatures. The results suggest that in terms of relative abundance and biomass, increasing knapweed density had positive effects on some arthropod functional groups, neutral effects on others, and negative effects on others. Thus, not all arthropod functional groups responded equally to knapweed invasion, and knapweed invasion does not necessarily decrease arthropod functional group diversity.