, Volume 23, Issue 3, pp 313-325
Date: 19 Dec 2007

Communities in context: the influences of multiscale environmental variation on local ant community structure

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Abstract

We explored the ways in which environmental variation at multiple spatial scales influences the organization of ant species into local communities. Ground-dwelling ants were sampled in sandhill habitat at 33 locations throughout northern Florida, USA. Variance partitioning of local, landscape, and regional datasets using partial redundancy analysis indicates that ant community composition is significantly influenced by environmental variability across all scales of analysis. Habitat generalists appear to replace habitat specialists at sites with high proportions of matrix habitat in the surrounding landscape. Conversely, habitat specialists appear to replace habitat generalists at sites with more sandhill habitat in the surrounding landscape and greater amounts of bare ground locally. Local niche differentiation leading to species-sorting, combined with the effects of spatially structured dispersal dynamics at landscape scales, may explain this pattern of community structure. Regional influences on local ant communities were correlated with geographical and environmental gradients at distinct regional scales. Therefore, local ant communities appear to be simultaneously structured by different processes that occur at separate spatial scales: local, landscape, and regional scales defined by spatial extent. Our results illustrate the importance of considering multiscale influences on patterns of organization in ecological communities.