Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 13, Issue 4, pp 425-441

First online:

Diversity, abundance, and species composition of ants in urban green spaces

  • Shinsuke UnoAffiliated withSchool of Natural Resources and Environment, University of MichiganDepartment of Humanity and Environment/ Ichigaya Liberal Art Center, Hosei University
  • , Julie CottonAffiliated withSchool of Natural Resources and Environment, University of MichiganDepartment of Crop and Soil Sciences, Michigan State University
  • , Stacy M. PhilpottAffiliated withDepartment of Environmental Sciences, University of Toledo Email author 

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Urbanization threatens biodiversity, yet the number and scope of studies on urban arthropod biodiversity are relatively limited. We sampled ant communities in three urban habitats (forest remnants, community gardens, vacant lots) in Detroit and Toledo, USA, to compare species richness, abundance, and species composition. We measured 24 site characteristics to examine relationships between richness and composition and habitat patch size, vegetation, and urban features. Ant richness was higher in forests (26) than in gardens (14) and intermediate in vacant lots (20). Ant richness in gardens and vacant lots negatively correlated with abundance of an exotic ant species (Tetramorium caespitum); thus this ant may affect native ant richness in urban habitats. Ant composition differed with habitat type, and abundance was lowest in forests. Site characteristics varied with habitat type: forests were larger, had more woody plants, higher woody plant richness, more branches, and leaf litter whereas lots and gardens had more concrete and buildings. Vacant lots had taller herbaceous vegetation, and gardens had higher forb richness, density, and more bare ground. Differences in vegetation did not correlate with ant richness, but several vegetation factors (e.g. patch size, number and size of trees, leaf litter, and amount of concrete and buildings) correlated with differences in ant species composition. Additional factors relating to soil, nests, or microclimatic factors may also be important for urban ant communities. Implications for biodiversity conservation in urban ecosystems are discussed.


Biodiversity Community gardens Conservation Habitat characteristics Tetramorium caespitum Urban forests Urbanization Vacant lots