Special Issue "Insects in Mountain Ecosystems"

A special issue of Insects (ISSN 2075-4450). This special issue belongs to the section "Insect Ecology, Diversity and Conservation".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Dr. Roberto Pizzolotto
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Biologia, Ecologia, Scienze della Terra, Università della Calabria, Rende,87036, Italy
Interests: species diversity; alpine ecology; climate change; carabid beetles
Dr. Mauro Gobbi
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
MUSE - Science Museum, Trento, Italy
Interests: alpine insect ecology, beetles, climate changes, high altitude habitats, spatio-temporal patterns

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The broad-scale features of mountain ecosystems are tied to the morphology of the relief because temperature variation with elevation is one of the main factors driving the adaptation of living organisms to mountain environments. Moreover the same elevation gradient at different latitudes and accompanied by local abiotic features, e.g., bedrock, soil, and climate, may trigger a particular set of evolution drivers, leading to the colonization of restricted mountain ranges by peculiar biota.

These and other features make mountains the ideal place to study altitude-for-latitude ecosystem variations, or even altitude-for-succession (i.e., time) gradients. Vegetation and soil layers are dominated by complex communities of invertebrates, even in the extreme environments of high altitudes, where the last chance of survival is given to species contracting their geographical range as a consequence of climate change.

Studies of mountain insects have focused on several subjects, including abundance relationships among species as well as zoogeography, phenotypic plasticity, man-made disturbance.

This Special Issue will broadly address studies on insects in mountain ecosystems across all relevant disciplines, and, in this context, submissions in the form of reviews and original basic or applied research are welcome.

Dr. Roberto Pizzolotto

Dr. Mauro Gobbi

Guest Editors

Keywords

  • mountain ecosystems
  • extreme environments
  • zoogeography
  • altitudinal gradient

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
Biodiversity and Spatiotemporal Variation of Longhorn Beetles (Coleoptera: Cerambycidae) in Tropical Forest of Thailand
Insects 2021, 12(1), 45; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12010045 - 08 Jan 2021
Viewed by 439
Abstract
Longhorn beetles are highly diversified and important for agriculture and health of the environment. However, the fauna and ecology of these beetles are not well known in Thailand. This study is the first to report the biodiversity, elevation, and seasonal distribution of longhorn [...] Read more.
Longhorn beetles are highly diversified and important for agriculture and health of the environment. However, the fauna and ecology of these beetles are not well known in Thailand. This study is the first to report the biodiversity, elevation, and seasonal distribution of longhorn beetles. Specimens were collected by malaise traps from 41 localities in 24 national parks throughout the country during 2006–2009. The traps were operated at each site for 12 consecutive months with a monthly service. A total of 199 morphotaxa in 36 tribes of 6 subfamilies were identified from 1376 specimens. Of these, 40.7% and 14.5% of total taxa were singletons and doubletons, respectively. The Shannon diversity index and observed species richness at Panernthung, Loei Forest Unit and Mae Fang Hotspring were high at 0.96 (30), 0.88 (50), and 0.86 (34), respectively. Local richness ranged between 3 and 50 species, while the species richness estimator showed between 6 and 1275 species. The most relatively abundant species, Nupserha lenita, Pterolophia sp.1, Oberea sp.3, Acalolepta pseudospeciosa, and Ac. rustricatrix represented 4.80%, 4.80%, 4.80%, 4.5%, and 4.43% of the species, respectively. The species with the widest distribution range of percentage of species occurrence (% SO) was Pt. sp.1 (63.4%), followed by Ac. rustricatrix (39%) and Moechotypa suffusa (39%). In a significantly negative relationship between species richness and elevation (p > 0.05, R2 = 0.04), the species richness pattern showed a hump-shaped curve that peaked at the middle elevation (501–1000 m asl). Regarding seasonal variation, most of the species occurred during the hot season (March–April) and peaked in early rainy season (May), while a low number of species were found during the mid-rainy (June–October) and cold season (November–February). Ordination analysis indicated that the distribution of most species was associated with regions and forest type, and most of the species correlated with forest located at middle and low elevation. The results of this study indicated the very high biodiversity of longhorn beetles in Thailand, which suggests that an understanding of their seasonal and elevational distribution will be of value to agriculture management and conservation. They also indicated that malaise traps are appropriate for the evaluation of biodiversity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Insects in Mountain Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle
Manual Sampling and Video Observations: An Integrated Approach to Studying Flower-Visiting Arthropods in High-Mountain Environments
Insects 2020, 11(12), 881; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11120881 - 11 Dec 2020
Viewed by 1145
Abstract
Despite the rising interest in biotic interactions in mountain ecosystems, little is known about high-altitude flower-visiting arthropods. In particular, since the research in these environment can be limited or undermined by harsh conditions and logistical difficulties, it is mandatory to develop effective approaches [...] Read more.
Despite the rising interest in biotic interactions in mountain ecosystems, little is known about high-altitude flower-visiting arthropods. In particular, since the research in these environment can be limited or undermined by harsh conditions and logistical difficulties, it is mandatory to develop effective approaches that maximize possibilities to gather high-quality data. Here we compared two different methods, manual sampling and video observations, to investigate the interactions between the high-mountain arthropod community and flowers of Androsace brevis (Primulaceae), a vulnerable endemic alpine species with a short flowering period occurring in early season. We manually sampled flower-visiting arthropods according to the timed-observations method and recorded their activity on video. We assessed differences and effectiveness of the two approaches to estimate flower-visiting arthropod diversity and to identify potential taxa involved in A. brevis pollination. Both methods proved to be effective and comparable in describing the diversity of flower visitors at a high taxonomic level. However, with manual sampling we were able to obtain a fine taxonomic resolution for sampled arthropods and to evaluate which taxa actually carry A. brevis pollen, while video observations were less invasive and allowed us to assess arthropod behavior and to spot rare taxa. By combining the data obtained with these two approaches we could accurately identify flower-visiting arthropods, characterize their behavior, and hypothesize a role of Hymenoptera Apoidea and Diptera Brachycera in A. brevis pollination. Therefore, we propose integrating the two approaches as a powerful instrument to unravel interactions between flowering plants and associated fauna that can provide crucial information for the conservation of vulnerable environments such as high-mountain ecosystems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Insects in Mountain Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle
Coprophagous Hydrophilid Beetles (Coleoptera, Hydrophilidae, Sphaeridiinae) Distribution in the Polish Carpathians
Insects 2020, 11(6), 355; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11060355 - 05 Jun 2020
Viewed by 746
Abstract
Research on coprophagous beetles of the Hydrophilidae family in the Polish Carpathians was conducted from 2011 to 2013. The beetles were caught using baited traps. The research sites were selected to take into account both the horizontal diversity of habitat conditions and the [...] Read more.
Research on coprophagous beetles of the Hydrophilidae family in the Polish Carpathians was conducted from 2011 to 2013. The beetles were caught using baited traps. The research sites were selected to take into account both the horizontal diversity of habitat conditions and the vertical diversity associated with elevation above sea level. During the study, 9589 coprophagous hydrophilid individuals were collected, representing 17 species and five genera. Two species that were new to Poland were found: Cercyon tatricus and Pachysternum capense. The vertical ranges of the individual species of coprophagous hydrophilid beetles within the Polish Carpathians were determined as well as the elevations above sea level, with the highest and lowest species richness of this group of insects. The capture of Pachysternum capense in the Tatra Mountains may indicate the existence of an unrecognized path of migration of small insects from Southern to Northern Europe. The route and mechanisms of their migration are discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Insects in Mountain Ecosystems)
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Open AccessReview
Ecosystem Birth near Melting Glaciers: A Review on the Pioneer Role of Ground-Dwelling Arthropods
Insects 2020, 11(9), 644; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11090644 - 19 Sep 2020
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1159
Abstract
As glaciers retreat, their forelands represent “natural laboratories” for the study of primary succession. This review describes how certain arthropods conquer pristine ground and develop food webs before the establishment of vascular plants. Based on soil samples, pitfall traps, fallout and sticky traps, [...] Read more.
As glaciers retreat, their forelands represent “natural laboratories” for the study of primary succession. This review describes how certain arthropods conquer pristine ground and develop food webs before the establishment of vascular plants. Based on soil samples, pitfall traps, fallout and sticky traps, gut content studies, and some unpublished data, we compare early arthropod succession on glacial forelands of northern Europe (Iceland, Norway including Svalbard, and Sweden) and of the Alps (Austria, Italy). While macroarthropod predators like ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae), harvestmen (Arachnida: Opiliones), and spiders (Arachnida: Araneae) have usually been considered as pioneers, assumed to feed on airborne prey, this review explains a different pattern. Here, we highlight that springtails (Collembola), probably feeding on biofilm made up of algae or cyanobacteria, are super-pioneers, even at high altitudes and under arctic conditions. We also point out that macroarthropod predators can use locally available prey, such as springtails or non-biting midges (Diptera: Chironomidae). Pioneer arthropod communities vary under different biogeographical and climatic conditions. Two pioneer food webs, from northern Europe and the Alps, respectively, differed in structure and function. However, certain genera and orders were common to both. Generalists and specialists live together in a pioneer community. Cold-adapted specialists are threatened by glacier melting. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Insects in Mountain Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle
Distributional Patterns of Aquatic Empididae (Diptera) along an Elevational Diversity Gradient in a Low Mountain Range: An Example from Central Europe
Insects 2021, 12(2), 165; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12020165 - 15 Feb 2021
Viewed by 385
Abstract
The two subfamilies Hemerodromiinae and Clinocerinae, also known as aquatic dance flies, are a group of small predatory insects occurring mainly in mountainous areas and the northern temperate. However, very little is known about distribution patterns for most of the species. Habitat preferences [...] Read more.
The two subfamilies Hemerodromiinae and Clinocerinae, also known as aquatic dance flies, are a group of small predatory insects occurring mainly in mountainous areas and the northern temperate. However, very little is known about distribution patterns for most of the species. Habitat preferences for 40 aquatic empidid species were analysed in the Pieniny Mts., Poland. Forty-six sampling sites from a major part of this relatively low mountain massif (400–770 m) were chosen, for which 17 micro and macrohabitat environmental variables were measured including both abiotic (altitude, stream mean width and depth, and shading) and biotic factors (13 dominant plant communities). Here we show that numerous studied aquatic Empididae were characterized by unique habitat preferences and were restricted to the foothills or the lower montane zone with only a few species characterized by wider elevational distribution. Chelifera pectinicauda, C. flavella, C. subangusta and Phyllodromia melanocephala (Hemerodromiinae), and Clinocera appendiculata, C. fontinalis, C. wesmaeli, Dolichocephala guttata, D. oblongoguttata, Kowarzia plectrum, Wiedemannia jazdzewskii, and W. thienemanni (Clinocerinae) were clearly associated with the highest altitudes and shaded areas while W. bistigma, W. lamellata, W. phantasma, and W. tricuspidata (Clinocerinae) were clearly associated with the lower elevated, wider stream valleys overgrown by willow brakes. Species richness and diversity decreased along elevational gradient with the hump-shaped diversity pattern noted for the subfamily Clinocerinae. The altitude, size of river/stream as well as the type of plant community were found as the most important factors in the distribution of the studied aquatic empidid species. The present study is the first one focused on elevational diversity gradient and habitat preferences of Hemerodromiinae and Clinocerinae of central Europe, and one of only a few in the world. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Insects in Mountain Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle
Thermal Tolerance of Fruit-Feeding Butterflies (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) in Contrasting Mountaintop Environments
Insects 2020, 11(5), 278; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects11050278 - 01 May 2020
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1048
Abstract
Ectothermic organisms, such as insects, are highly temperature dependent and are good models for studies that predict organisms’ responses to global climate change. Predicting how climate change may affect species distributions is a complicated task. However, it is possible to estimate species’ physiological [...] Read more.
Ectothermic organisms, such as insects, are highly temperature dependent and are good models for studies that predict organisms’ responses to global climate change. Predicting how climate change may affect species distributions is a complicated task. However, it is possible to estimate species’ physiological constraints through maximum critical temperature, which may indicate if the species can tolerate new climates. Butterflies are useful organisms for studies of thermal tolerance. We tested if species have different thermal tolerances and if different habitats influence the thermal tolerance of the butterflies present in Brazil’s campo rupestre (open areas) and forest islands (shaded areas). A total of 394 fruit-feeding butterflies, comprising 45 species, were tested. The results separated the species into two statistically different groups: the resistant species with maximum critical temperature of 53.8 ± 7.4 °C, and the non-resistant species with maximum critical temperature of 48.2 ± 7.4 °C. The species of butterflies displayed differences in maximum critical temperature between the campo rupestre and forest islands that can be related to the two distinct habitats, but this did not correlate phylogenetically. Species from the forest islands were also divided into two groups, “resistant” and “non-resistant”, probably due to the heterogeneity of the habitat; the forest islands have a canopy, and in the understory, there are shaded and sunny areas. Species from forest islands, especially species that displayed lower thermal tolerance, may be more susceptible to global warming. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Insects in Mountain Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle
Relicts from Glacial Times: The Ground Beetle Pterostichus adstrictus Eschscholtz, 1823 (Coleoptera: Carabidae) in the Austrian Alps
Insects 2021, 12(1), 84; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12010084 - 19 Jan 2021
Viewed by 616
Abstract
The last ice age considerably influenced distribution patterns of extant species of plants and animals, with some of them now inhabiting disjunct areas in the subarctic/arctic and alpine regions. This arctic-alpine distribution is characteristic for many cold-adapted species with a limited dispersal ability [...] Read more.
The last ice age considerably influenced distribution patterns of extant species of plants and animals, with some of them now inhabiting disjunct areas in the subarctic/arctic and alpine regions. This arctic-alpine distribution is characteristic for many cold-adapted species with a limited dispersal ability and can be found in many invertebrate taxa, including ground beetles. The ground beetle Pterostichus adstrictus Eschscholtz, 1823 of the subgenus Bothriopterus was previously known to have a holarctic-circumpolar distribution, in Europe reaching its southern borders in Wales and southern Scandinavia. Here, we report the first findings of this species from the Austrian Ötztal Alps, representing also the southernmost edge of its currently known distribution, confirmed by the comparison of morphological characters to other Bothriopterus species and DNA barcoding data. Molecular data revealed a separation of the Austrian and Finish specimens with limited to no gene flow at all. Furthermore, we present the first data on habitat preference and seasonality of P. adstrictus in the Austrian Alps. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Insects in Mountain Ecosystems)
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Open AccessArticle
Ant Diversity and Community Composition in Alpine Tree Line Ecotones
Insects 2021, 12(3), 219; https://doi.org/10.3390/insects12030219 - 04 Mar 2021
Viewed by 540
Abstract
Ants are crucial for the functioning of many terrestrial ecosystems, but detailed knowledge of their ecological role is often lacking. This is true for high mountains where a steep environmental gradient exists from mountainous forest, densely populated by ants, to grassland habitats above [...] Read more.
Ants are crucial for the functioning of many terrestrial ecosystems, but detailed knowledge of their ecological role is often lacking. This is true for high mountains where a steep environmental gradient exists from mountainous forest, densely populated by ants, to grassland habitats above the tree line, harboring a sparse ant community. We assessed ant communities in and around the tree line ecotone on five slopes in the southern-central Alps, focusing on their species diversity, community composition, and functional dimensions. Species richness and functional diversity were highest directly at the ecotone. Ant community composition was shaped by elevation and shrub cover. Further, the abundance of the dominant mound-building red wood ants (Formica s. str.) influenced the community composition of the subordinate species. We conclude that over the tree line ecotone a shift in predominance from biotic limitations in the forest to abiotic filters in the alpine environment takes place. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Insects in Mountain Ecosystems)
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