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 RL, Bestelmeyer BT, Kelly J.F.
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.