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Title: Effects of urban development on ant communities: implications for ecosystem services and management

Author: Sanford, M.P.; Manley, Patricia N.; Murphy, Dennis D.

Date: 2009

Source: Conservation Biology 23(1): 131-141

Publication Series: Journal/Magazine Article (JRNL)

Description: Research that connects the effects of urbanization on biodiversity and ecosystem services is lacking. Ants perform multifarious ecological functions that stabilize ecosystems and contribute to a number of ecosystem services. We studied responses of ant communities to urbanization in the Lake Tahoe basin by sampling sites along a gradient of urban land development. We sampled ant communities, measured vegetation characteristics, quantified human activities, and evaluated ant-community responses by grouping ants into service-providing units (SPUs), defined as a group of organisms and their populations that perform specific ecosystem services, to provide an understanding of urbanization impacts on biodiversity and their delivery of ecosystem services. Species richness and abundance peaked at intermediate levels of urban development, as did the richness of 3 types of ant SPUs (aerators, decomposers, and compilers). With increasing land development aerator and decomposer ants significantly declined in abundance, whereas compiler ants significantly increased in abundance. Competing models demonstrated that precipitation was frequently among the strongest influences on ant community structure; however, urban development and human activities also had a strong, negative influence on ants, appearing in most models with ΔAICc < 2 for species richness and abundance patterns of SPUs and generalists. Response diversity was observed within SPUs, which suggests that the corresponding ecosystem services were maintained until development reached 30–40%. Our data provide evidence that ecosystem functions, such as water infiltration and soil productivity, may be diminished at sites subject to greater levels of urbanization and that conserving ant communities and the ecosystem services they provide could be an important target in land-use planning and conservation efforts.

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Keywords: ants • ecosystem services • forest management • Lake Tahoe • service-providing units • water infiltration • urbanization

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  • This article was written and prepared by U.S. Government employees on official time, and is therefore in the public domain.

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Sanford, M.P.; Manley, Patricia N.; Murphy, Dennis D. 2009. Effects of Urban Development on Ant Communities: Implications for Ecosystem Services and Management. Conservation Biology 23(1): 131-141

 


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