Seasonal and long-term variation in body-water content of an Antarctic springtail – a response to climate change?
Body-water content of field-fresh samples of the springtail, Cryptopygus antarcticus Willem (Collembola, Isotomidae) was measured at monthly intervals over 11 years (1984–1995) at Signy Island, in the maritime Antarctic. A clear annual cycle of variation in water content was observed, with maxima in the austral spring and autumn, and minima in midwinter and midsummer. There was no overall trend during the 11-year study, in contrast to an earlier analysis of the initial 1984–1987 period, which demonstrated a significant increase in body-water content (from 56.6 to 66.0% fresh weight). It is suggested that, between 1984 and 1987, water stress on C. antarcticus in its environment declined, and thereafter stabilised between 1988 and 1995. Springtail body-water content between 1984 and 1995 showed significant increases in several months, particularly in autumn and early winter, with decreases in midsummer. This was consistent with the predicted consequences of the pattern of regional climatic warming in the maritime Antarctic, where small increments in temperature have effectively increased the length of the potential biologically active period. C. antarcticus responds rapidly to local and short-term variations in environmental conditions and will be able to take advantage of increases in the thermal energy budget and growing season length. It is predicted that climate warming could lead to a reduction in life-cycle duration, an increase in population density and extension of geographical range.