Ants as indicators for vertebrate fauna at a local scale: an assessment of cross-taxa surrogacy in a disturbed matrix

Bennett, J.M., Kutt, A.S., Johnson, C.N., and Robson, S.K.A. (2009) Ants as indicators for vertebrate fauna at a local scale: an assessment of cross-taxa surrogacy in a disturbed matrix. Biodiversity and Conservation, 18 (13). pp. 3407-3419.

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Abstract

We examined the spatial fidelity in the pattern in species richness, abundance and composition of ants, birds, mammals and reptiles in a Eucalyptus vegetation type in Australian tropical savanna woodland. We sampled 32 sites representing intact (uncleared) vegetation, and three treatments of different clearing age (2, 12 and 18 years). We investigated whether each fauna taxon could act a surrogate for pattern in the other, and whether they responded in parallel to time since clearing. Reptiles and mammals were combined into a single group. The correlation between taxa was low for abundance (the best being between rept/mamm and ant abundance R = 0.34) and moderate for species richness (varied from 0.36 to 0.44). Mantel tests identified a moderately strong relationship between bird and rept/mamm composition (R = 0.48). Recent clearing (2–12 years) depleted both abundance and species richness of the vertebrate fauna, whereas ant abundance spiked. Ant species richness was consistent over time since clearing. ANOSIM revealed that clearing age was a strong a priori predictor of birds and rept/mamm composition (Global R = 0.48, 0.65, respectively), whereas it was not for ants (Global R = 0.20). Pair-wise comparisons suggested that for birds, rept/mamm, there was consistent changes in composition from intact woodlands to different aged clearing. This was not the case for ants; most distinct variation in composition occurred between treatments of increasing in clearing age (2–18 years R = 0.69, 12–18 years R = 0.65). The results of this study do not support the use of ants as a surrogate of vertebrates at a local scale in a cleared and intact vegetation mosaic. We acknowledge that identification of universal surrogates and indicators are difficult to find, but funding and political expediency that demand rapid solutions to conservation planning necessitate continued investigation of the merits of using surrogate species.

Item ID: 10527
Item Type: Article (Refereed Research - C1)
Keywords: tropical biology; surrogates; conservation; clearing; landscape; reptiles; mammals; birds
ISSN: 1572-9710
Date Deposited: 13 Apr 2010 22:17
FoR Codes: 05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050202 Conservation and Biodiversity @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9608 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity > 960805 Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity at Regional or Larger Scales @ 100%
Citation Count from Web of Science Web of Science 5
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