Functional traits of indigenous and exotic ground-dwelling arthropods show contrasting responses to land-use change in an oceanic island, Terceira, Azores

Rigal, F., Cardoso, P., Lobo, J.M., Triantis, K.A., Whittaker, R.J., Amorim, I.R. & Borges, P.A.V. (2017) Functional traits of indigenous and exotic arthropods show contrasting responses to a land-use gradient in an oceanic island, Terceira, Azores.

Diversity and Distributions, Online early, . DOI:10.1111/ddi.12655 (IF2016 4,391; Q1 Ecology)
  • Team:
  • Category:
  • Aug, 2017



Land-use change typically goes hand-in-hand with the introduction of exotic species, which mingle with indigenous species to form novel assemblages. Here we compare the functional structure of indigenous and exotic elements of ground-dwelling arthropod assemblages across four land-uses of varying management intensity.


Terceira Island (Azores, North Atlantic).


We used pitfall traps to sample arthropods in 36 sites across the four land-uses and collated traits related to dispersal ability, body size and resource-use. For both indigenous and exotic species, we examined the impact of land-uses on trait diversity and tested for the existence of non-random assembly processes using null models. We analysed differences in trait composition among land-uses for both indigenous and exotic species with multivariate analyses. We used point-biserial correlations to identity traits significantly correlated with specific land-uses for each element.


We recorded 86 indigenous and 116 exotic arthropod species. Under high intensity land-use, both indigenous and exotic elements showed significant trait clustering. Trait composition strongly shifted across land-uses, with indigenous and exotic species being functionally dissimilar in all land-uses. Large-bodied herbivores dominated exotic species in low intensity land-uses, while small-bodied spiders dominated exotics in high intensity land-uses. In contrast, with increasing land-use intensity, indigenous species changed from functionally diverse to being dominated by piercing and cutting herbivores.

Main conclusion

Our study revealed two main findings: first, in high intensity land-uses, trait clustering characterized both indigenous and exotic elements; second, exotic species differed in their functional profile from indigenous species in all land-use types. Overall, our results provide new insights into the functional role of exotic species in a land-use context, suggesting that, in agricultural landscape, exotic species may contribute positively to the maintenance of some ecosystem functions.