Cost-effective and ecologically sensitive monitoring techniques are required to assess effects of anthropogenic disturbances on biodiversity. Pitfall trapping is widely used in biodiversity monitoring programs to measure the diversity of organisms active within leaf-litter. We compared catch rates and species richness of ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae), rove beetles (Coleoptera: Staphylinidae), and spiders (Araneae) across five different diameters of pitfall traps (4.5, 6.5, 11, 15, and 20 cm) and three sizes of rain covers (64, 79.2, and 225 cm2) to determine optimal trap size for studying litter-dwelling arthropod biodiversity. In general, larger pitfall traps collected more individuals, and more species, of all three taxa. Further tests on data standardized to trap circumference showed that catch rates are not directly proportional to trap size, and even the smallest traps collected a disproportionately high number of certain taxa. When catch rate data were standardized by trap circumference smaller traps collected more small-bodied carabid and staphylinid species and large traps collected more wolf spiders (Lycosidae) than smaller traps. Roof size had no effect on species richness or catch rate of beetles or spiders. For the purposes of ecological monitoring, using more small pitfall traps would be the most efficient sampling technique to characterize the dominant epigaeic arthropod fauna; small traps collect few nontarget vertebrates, and sorting the samples involves generally less processing time. From a conservation perspective, however, including several large pitfall traps in the sampling regime would help detect rare species.
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