Influence of small-scale disturbances by kangaroo rates on Chihuahuan Desert ants

TitleInfluence of small-scale disturbances by kangaroo rates on Chihuahuan Desert ants
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2000
AuthorsSchooley R.L, Bestelmeyer BT, Kelly J.F.
JournalOecologia
Volume125
Pagination142-149
Date Published2000
Keywordsdisturbances, ecosystem engineers, formicidae, heteromyidae, spatial scale
AbstractBanner-tailed kangaroo rats (Dipodomys spectabilis) are prominent ecosystem engineers that build large mounds that influence the spatial structuring of fungi, plants, and some ground-dwelling animals. Ants are diverse and functionally important components of arid ecosystems; some species are also ecosystem engineers. We investigated the effects of patch disturbances created by D. spectabilis mounds on ant assemblages in a Chihuahuan Desert grassland in southern New Mexico by using pitfall traps in a paired design (mound vs matrix). Although the distrubances did not alter species richness or harbor unique ant communities relative to the matrix, they did alter species composition; the abundances of 6 of 26 species were affected. The distrubances might also act to disrupt spatial patterning of ants caused by other environmental gradients. In contrast to previous investigations of large-scale disturbances, we detected no effects of the disturbances on ants at the fucntional-group level. Whether ant communities respond to disturbance at a functional-group or within-functional-group level may depend on teh size and intersity fo the disturbance useful function-group schemes also may be scale-dependent, however, or species may respond idiosyncratically. Interactions between distrubance-generating ammmals and ants may produce a nested spatial structure of patches.
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