Ant communities in native sage scrub, non-native grassland, and suburban habitats in Los Angeles County, USA: conservation implications
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- Staubus, W.J., Boyd, E.S., Adams, T.A. et al. J Insect Conserv (2015) 19: 669. doi:10.1007/s10841-015-9790-5
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Southern California’s sage scrub (SS) ecosystem is severely threatened by suburban development and invasion by non-native grasses, but how these threats impact the arthropod community is poorly understood. Native ants, which face the additional threat of being displaced by non-native Argentine ants, may be particularly at risk of local and regional extirpation. In this study, we surveyed the ant communities in the SS and non-native grassland habitats at the Robert J Bernard Biological Field Station (BFS) and surrounding suburban habitat, and compared patterns of species richness and composition among habitat types. We also compared ant richness and composition at the BFS to 40 coastal SS fragments previously surveyed in San Diego County to better understand how ant communities in interior and coastal SS fragments differ. Ant composition significantly differed among all three habitat types at and surrounding the BFS, but species richness did not. Comparisons between the BFS and coastal fragments indicate that interior SS fragments harbor unique ant species and more species relative to fragment area. Increased richness and unique ant assemblages are probably associated with the limited ability of invasive Argentine ants to colonize the non-native grassland and SS at the BFS. Because many southern California invertebrates are narrowly endemic to low elevation areas, patterns of habitat specificity seen with ants highlight that maintaining a mosaic of SS and non-native grassland habitat, particularly in interior areas where activity and diversity of non-native invertebrate species may be restricted, may be critical to preserving biodiversity.