Abundance data from pitfall traps are widely used to estimate the relationship between beetle body size and abundance. Such data probably overestimate densities of large bodied species and may overestimate slopes of size‐abundance relationships. Here, we test this idea by comparing size‐abundance patterns found using data from pitfall trapping with those found with data from a quantitative method of estimating abundance, quadrat sampling. We use data from a total of 47 communities. As expected, slopes of size‐abundance relationships are significantly more positive when estimated using data from pitfall traps compared to when using quadrat sampling data. This was seen when looking across different communities, within communities sampled by both methods and when focusing on the set of species found by both methods within a community. These results were also generally found regardless of method of analysis, which were done using regression with species values as independent data points and using the independent contrast method, and with slopes estimated using ordinary least square regression or the structural relation. Most important, slopes of size‐abundance relationships based on data from pitfall traps were on average significantly more positive than −0.75 on log–log scales, and thus inconsistent with the energetic equivalence rule. Slopes based on quadrat sampling, on the other hand, were on average not significantly different from −0.75. The rejection of the energetic equivalence rule based on data from pitfall traps here is therefore a sampling artefact. Similar problems may apply to abundance data from virtually all insect trapping methods, and should make us consider re‐examining many of the size‐abundance patterns documented so far. As a large proportion of all animal species are insects, and traps are widely used to estimate abundance, this is a potentially important problem for our general understanding of the relationship between species body size and abundance.
Oikos – Wiley
Published: May 1, 2003
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