Eur. J. Entomol. 111 (1): 69-74, 2014 | DOI: 10.14411/eje.2014.008

The efficiency of pitfall traps as a method of sampling epigeal arthropods in litter rich forest habitats

Johanna SIEWERS1, Jens SCHIRMEL2, Sascha BUCHHOLZ*,3
1 Biological Station Wesel, Freybergweg 9, 46483 Wesel, Germany; e-mail: Johanna.Siewers@gmx.de
2 Ecosystem Analysis, Institute of Environmental Science, University of Koblenz-Landau, Fortstraße 7, 76829 Landau, Germany; e-mail: schirmel@uni-landau.de
3 Department of Ecology, TU Berlin, Rothenburgstr. 12, 12165 Berlin, Germany; e-mail: sascha.buchholz@tu-berlin.de

Pitfall trapping is an approved self-sampling method for capturing epigeal arthropods for ecological and faunistic studies. Capture efficiency of pitfall traps may be affected by external factors and the design of the trap. Pitfall traps set in forests are usually protected with covers or wire grids, but the effect of these constructions on sampling efficiency as well as their practicability and necessity have so far received little attention. During the present study pitfall traps of four different designs (covers, wire grids, litter exclosure, open) were tested in terms of their efficiency in capturing ground-dwelling arthropods (Acari, Araneae, Carabidae, Formicidae, Isopoda, Myriapoda, Opiliones) in order to gain a better understanding of the applicability and reliability of pitfall traps in forests. The study was carried out in an oak-beech forest in Northwest Germany using a total of 40 pitfall traps (ten replicates per trap design). Generalised linear models indicated no significant differences in arthropods counts among catches of pitfall traps of the four different designs, except for woodlice. Ordination analyses (NMDS) and MANOVA revealed no significant differences in spider and carabid beetle species compositions of the catches. In contrast, for both these taxa there were significant differences in the body sizes of the individuals caught. We conclude that the catches of pitfall traps are little affected by their design. Furthermore, the litter layer and litter input have no effect on the capture efficiency and thus there seems to be no need to protect pitfall traps with covers or wire grids in litter rich forest habitats.

Keywords: Araneae, Carabidae, ground-dwelling arthropods, capture efficiency, deciduous forest, methodology

Received: September 5, 2013; Accepted: October 15, 2013; Published: January 9, 2014

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