Activity density at a continental scale: What drives invertebrate biomass moving across the soil surface?

Michael Kaspari, Michael D. Weiser, Katie E. Marshall, Matthew Miller, Cameron Siler, Kirsten de Beurs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Activity density (AD), the rate that an individual taxon or its biomass moves through the environment, is used both to monitor communities and quantify the potential for ecosystem work. The Abundance Velocity Hypothesis posited that AD increases with aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) and is a unimodal function of temperature. Here we show that, at continental extents, increasing ANPP may have nonlinear effects on AD: increasing abundance, but decreasing velocity as accumulating vegetation interferes with movement. We use 5 yr of data from the NEON invertebrate pitfall trap arrays including 43 locations and four habitat types for a total of 77 habitat–site combinations to evaluate continental drivers of invertebrate AD. ANPP and temperature accounted for one-third to 92% of variation in AD. As predicted, AD was a unimodal function of temperature in forests and grasslands but increased linearly in open scrublands. ANPP yielded further nonlinear effects, generating unimodal AD curves in wetlands, and bimodal curves in forests. While all four habitats showed no AD trends over 5 yr of sampling, these nonlinearities suggest that trends in AD, often used to infer changes in insect abundance, will vary qualitatively across ecoregions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere03542
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


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