Cite as:
Tiede, Y.; Schlautmann, J.; Donoso, D.A.; Wallis, C.I.B.; Bendix, J.; Brandl, R. &amp; Farwig, N. (2017): <b> Ants as indicators of environmental change and ecosystem processes</b>. <i>Ecological Indicators</i> <b>83</b>, 527–537.

Resource Description

Title: Ants as indicators of environmental change and ecosystem processes
FOR816dw ID: 298
Publication Date: 2017-12-01
License and Usage Rights:
Resource Owner(s):
Individual: Yvonne Tiede
Individual: Jan Schlautmann
Individual: David A. Donoso
Individual: Christine I. B. Wallis
Individual: Jörg Bendix
Individual: Roland Brandl
Individual: Nina Farwig
Environmental stressors and changes in land use have led to rapid and dramatic species losses. As such,<br/> we need effective monitoring programs that alert us not only to biodiversity losses, but also to functional<br/> changes in species assemblages and associated ecosystem processes. Ants are important components<br/> of terrestrial food webs and a key group in food web interactions and numerous ecosystem processes. Their sensitive and <br/> rapid response to environmental changes suggests that they are a suitable indicator group for the monitoring of abiotic, <br/> biotic, and functional changes. We tested the suitability of the incidence (i.e. the sum of all species occurrences <br/> at 30 baits), species richness, and functional richness of ants as indicators of ecological responses to environmental change, forest degradation, and of the<br/> ecosystem process predation on herbivorous arthropods. We sampled data along an elevational gradient<br/> (1000–3000 m a.s.l.) and across seasons (wetter and drier period) in a montane rainforest in south-<br/> ern Ecuador. The incidence of ants declined with increasing elevation but did not change with forest<br/> degradation. <br/> Ant incidence was higher during the drier season. Species richness was highly correlated<br/> with incidence and showed comparable results. Functional richness also declined with increasing ele-<br/> vation and did not change with forest degradation. However, a null-model comparison revealed that<br/> the functional richness pattern did not differ from a pattern expected for ant assemblages with ran-<br/> domly distributed sets of traits across species. Predation on arti?cial caterpillars decreased along the<br/> elevational gradient; the pattern was not driven by elevation itself, but by ant incidence (or inter-<br/> changeable by ant richness), which positively affected predation. In spite of lower ant incidence (or<br/> ant richness), predation was higher during the wetter season and did not change with forest degrada-<br/> tion and ant functional richness. We used path analysis to disentangle the causal relationships of the<br/> environmental factors temperature (with elevation as a proxy), season, and habitat degradation with<br/> the incidence and functional richness of ants, and their consequences for predation. Our results would<br/> suggest that the forecasted global warming might support more active and species-rich ant assem-<br/> blages, which in turn would mediate increased predation on herbivorous arthropods. However, this<br/> prediction should be made with reservation, as it assumes that the dispersal of ants keeps pace with<br/> the climatic changes as well as a one-dimensional relationship between ants and predation within a<br/> food-web that comprises species interactions of much higher complexity. Our results also suggested<br/> that degraded forests in our study area might provide suitable habitat for epigaeic, ground-dwelling ant<br/> assemblages that do not differ in incidence, species richness, functional richness, composition, or predation <br/> on arthropods from assemblages of primary forests. Most importantly, our results suggest that<br/> the occurrence and activity of ants are important drivers of ecosystem processes and that changes in the<br/> incidence and richness of ants can be used as effective indicators of responses to temperature changes<br/> and of predation within mega-diverse forest ecosystems
| southern Ecuador | Functioanl Monitoring | Ants |
Literature type specific fields:
Journal: Ecological Indicators
Volume: 83
Page Range: 527–537
Metadata Provider:
Individual: Jörg Bendix
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