, Volume 152, Issue 2, pp 227-238
Date: 13 Jan 2007

Do terrestrial invertebrates experience floodplains as landscape mosaics? Immediate and longer-term effects of flooding on ant assemblages in a floodplain forest

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Abstract

Considering the floodplain landscape as a mosaic of habitat patches at different successional stages is useful for understanding (1) the processes associated with individual floods and (2) the legacy of flood history. Here, we investigate the applicability of the mosaic model to opportunistic ant species inhabiting the floodplain. Ground-active ant assemblages in river red gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) floodplain forest in south-eastern Australia were sampled before and for two years after a major flood in 2000–2001 at 24 sites with different inundation histories. Despite the mobility and opportunistic life history traits of floodplain ants, flood history appeared to impose a persistent mosaic structure on ant assemblages. Increasing duration of inundation of the forest floor was associated with decreasing species richness. β-diversity was low, with the ant species at the most inundation-prone sites being a subset of those at drier sites. Less extensive flooding occurred in 2002–2003, enabling the consistency of short-term responses to inundation to be assessed. Flooding acts as a resetting mechanism, creating a characteristic ant assemblage. After floodwaters receded, there was little evidence of convergence in the structure of ant assemblages through time between sites flooded for different durations. The persistence of dissimilarities in ant assemblages suggests that succession towards terrestrialization was either not occurring or that it was operating at a rate that was too slow to be detected.

Communicated by Konrad Fiedler.