Overwintering survival of soil microarthropods under differing natural snow covers

Sampling event
Latest version published by The University Centre in Svalbard on Feb 3, 2023 The University Centre in Svalbard
Publication date:
3 February 2023
CC-BY 4.0

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The Arctic has a diverse terrestrial microarthropod fauna which overwinters in situ in soil and vegetation. This fauna is involved in key ecosystem process, for example decomposition and pollination, and has tolerance to the Arctic’s winter conditions. However, the Arctic is undergoing rapid change. Svalbard is experiencing warming rates up to four times the global average as well as alterations in precipitation (quantity and form; snow or rain) and wind direction. These will modify the conditions experienced by the overwintering fauna. Since laboratory experiments often fail to capture the diversity of environmental stressors, we employed a manipulation experiment to use the naturally accumulating snow pack to moderate soil winter soil temperatures, combined with an extended incubator treatment, to map the duration limits of naturally induced cold tolerance. We demonstrate that the Collembola fauna can tolerate temperatures of -25°C but that, in areas devoid of snow accumulation and when soil temperatures dip below -30°C there is significant mortality. Furthermore, we demonstrate that exposure to a further extended 12 month period at -6°C, as a simple model of a situation where snow cover is not lost during the short Arctic summer, results in additional mortality with relatively few Collembola surviving. By contrast, while oribatid mites displayed similar survival over a natural winter as the Collembola, they were highly resistant to the extended exposure at -6°C, with no additional mortality occurring. We also documented survival amongst other invertebrate groups, including Nematocera and Brachycera larvae, Hemiptera (A. svalbardicum), Coleoptera (I. flagellum), and Araneae (Linyphiidae). We conclude that snow depth and winter air temperatures interact to regulate soil microarthropod populations over local scales and the functioning of the Arctic soil ecosystem. Moreover, the environmental changes currently being observed in polar regions will continue to modify this fauna and its local and micro-scale distribution.

Data Records

The data in this sampling event resource has been published as a Darwin Core Archive (DwC-A), which is a standardized format for sharing biodiversity data as a set of one or more data tables. The core data table contains 7 records.

2 extension data tables also exist. An extension record supplies extra information about a core record. The number of records in each extension data table is illustrated below.

Event (core)

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How to cite

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

Interactions between winter temperatures and duration of exposure may structure Arctic microarthropod communities Stephen James Coulson, Peter Convey, Sil Schuuring, Simone Iris Lang Journal of Thermal Biology


Researchers should respect the following rights statement:

The publisher and rights holder of this work is The University Centre in Svalbard. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY 4.0) License.

GBIF Registration

This resource has been registered with GBIF, and assigned the following GBIF UUID: 9bf3a189-b38c-4999-a7b3-f926b51769f8.  The University Centre in Svalbard publishes this resource, and is itself registered in GBIF as a data publisher endorsed by GBIF Norway.


Polar; Snow; Climate change; Soil; Invertebrate


Stephen Coulson
  • Metadata Provider
  • Originator
  • User
  • Point Of Contact
University Centre in Svalbard (UNIS)
9171 Longyearbyen

Geographic Coverage


Bounding Coordinates South West [-90, -180], North East [90, 180]

Sampling Methods

Sampling 10*10cm soil cores through the organic soil, c. 5 to 10cm.

Study Extent Dryas octopetala tundra at the entrance to Endalen, Svalbard.

Method step description:

  1. See paper: Interactions between winter temperatures and duration of exposure may structure Arctic microarthropod communities Stephen James Coulson, Peter Convey, Sil Schuuring, Simone Iris Lang. Journal of Thermal Biology

Collection Data

Collection Name UNIS invertebrate collection
Specimen preservation methods Alcohol

Additional Metadata

Purpose The study was conducted to demonstrate the effect of snow cover on the survival of soil microarthropods to natural winter conditions.
Maintenance Description This was a one-off study and the data set will not be extended further.
Alternative Identifiers https://ipt.gbif.no/resource?r=invert_cold_survival