Sunday, August 26, 2007

Rapid inventory of the ant assemblage in a temperate hardwood forest: species composition and assessment of sampling methods

Ants are key indicators of ecological change, but few studies have investigated how ant assemblages respond to dramatic changes in vegetation structure in temperate forests. Pests and pathogens are causing widespread loss of dominant canopy tree species; ant species composition and abundance may be very sensitive to such losses. Before the experimental removal of red oak trees to simulate effects of sudden oak death and examine the long-term impact of oak loss at the Black Rock Forest (Cornwall, NY), we carried out a rapid assessment of the ant assemblage in a 10-ha experimental area. We also determined the efficacy in a northern temperate forest of five different collecting methods-pitfall traps, litter samples, tuna fish and cookie baits, and hand collection-routinely used to sample ants in tropical systems. A total of 33 species in 14 genera were collected and identified; the myrmecines, Aphaenogaster rudis and Myrmica punctiventris, and the formicine Formica neogagates were the most common and abundant species encountered. Ninety-four percent (31 of 33) of the species were collected by litter sampling and structured hand sampling together, and we conclude that, in combination, these two methods are sufficient to assess species richness and composition of ant assemblages in northern temperate forests. Using new, unbiased estimators, we project that 38-58 ant species are likely to occur at Black Rock Forest. Loss of oak from these forests may favor Camponotus species that nest in decomposing wood and open habitat specialists in the genus Lasius.
Environ Entomol. 2007 Aug;36(4):766-75
Ellison AM, Record S, Arguello A, Gotelli NJ

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