Agricultural tarping, the practice of placing impermeable plastic tarps over crop beds before planting to suppress weeds, is rising in popularity. However, the use of tarps has uncertain effects on soil arthropod communities. We studied the impact of silage (black plastic) tarps and clear plastic tarps on surface-active and soil-dwelling arthropods by tracking immediate impacts and arthropod recovery for 5 weeks after tarps were removed. We also assessed how well environmental and experimental variables explained arthropod diversity and composition. During tarp application, we found that both silage and clear plastic tarps had significant negative impacts on surface-active arthropod diversity, while only clear plastic tarps impacted soil-dwelling arthropods. Surface-active arthropod diversity recovered by 1-3 weeks after tarping, but at 5 weeks after tarping soil-dwelling arthropod diversity was significantly lower in silage tarp and clear plastic plots than control plots. Tarps also led to compositional changes in the arthropod communities, though these changes were only significant during tarp cover. The variables that best explained arthropod diversity and community composition were treatment (i.e., silage tarp, clear plastic tarp, or control) during tarping and farm site after tarps were removed. Other variables, such as soil moisture and weed coverage, were not strong model predictors. These results imply that tarps may have temporary impacts on surface-active arthropods but potentially longer-lasting impacts on soil-dwelling arthropods. Continuing to monitor impacts on tarps on soil arthropods will better inform the sustainability of this practice.
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Kinnebrew, Eva; Izzo, Victor; Neher, Deborah A.; Ricketts, Taylor H.; Wallin, Kimberly F.; and Galford, Gillian L., "Differing short-term impacts of agricultural tarping on soil-dwelling and surface-active arthropods" (2023). Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources Faculty Publications. 173.