Journal Article

Impact of forest seral stage on use of ant communities for rapid assessment of terrestrial ecosystem health

Lynn D. Wike, F. Douglas Martin, Michael H. Paller and Eric A. Nelson

in Journal of Insect Science

Volume 10, issue 1
Published online June 2010 | e-ISSN: 1536-2442 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1673/031.010.7701

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Bioassessment evaluates ecosystem health by using the responses of a community of organisms that integrate all aspects of the ecosystem. A variety of bioassessment methods have been applied to aquatic ecosystems; however, terrestrial methods are less advanced. The objective of this study was to examine baseline differences in ant communities at different seral stages from clear cut to mature pine plantation as a precursor to developing a broader terrestrial bioassessment protocol. Comparative sampling was conducted at nine sites having four seral stages: clearcut, 5 year recovery, 15 year recovery, and mature stands. Soil and vegetation data were also collected at each site. Ants were identified to genus. Analysis of the ant data indicated that ants respond strongly to habitat changes that accompany ecological succession in managed pine forests, and both individual genera and ant community structure can be used as indicators of successional change. Ants exhibited relatively high diversity in both early and mature seral stages. High ant diversity in mature seral stages was likely related to conditions on the forest floor favoring litter dwelling and cold climate specialists. While ants may be very useful in identifying environmental stress in managed pine forests, adjustments must be made for seral stage when comparing impacted and unimpacted forests.

Keywords: ant functional groups; pine plantation; rapid bioassessment; silviculture; southeastern USA

Journal Article.  5863 words.  Illustrated.

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