Understanding the accuracy of sampling techniques is critical to accurate interpretation of local and global ecological patterns. Over the past 20 yr, Winkler leaf litter extractors have become one of the most common techniques used to collect terrestrial arthropods. Although the original description of this technique recommends the use of disturbance during extraction to increase extraction efficiency, most published studies do not follow this recommendation. Here we test experimentally how disturbing, or “shuffling” leaf litter during extraction affects collection efficiency for four groups of arthropods: ants, micro-Hymenoptera, beetles, and spiders. Our results show that extraction efficiency for abundance and richness of ants is increased with disturbance. Disturbance also improves extraction efficiency for beetle abundance, but does not affect micro-Hymenoptera and spider abundance or richness. Significantly, our results also demonstrate that shuffling litter can greatly reduce the variability of extraction efficiency between different sites. Because of this greater efficiency, we recommend use of the shuffling technique, when sampling leaf litter via Winkler extractors to maximize the collection of ants and beetles, especially for studies that compare abundance and richness across multiple sites.
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Vol. 40 • No. 6