The impact of wood ants (Formica rufa) on the distribution and abundance of ground beetles (Coleoptera: Carabidae) in a Scots pine plantation
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The importance of wood ants (Formica rufa) in determining the community structure (defined as the relative abundance of component species) and small-scale distribution of carabids was examined in a mature Scots pine stand in the New Forest, southern England. Carabids and wood ants were sampled by pitfall trapping throughout the forest stand from March to September 1998. The abundance of individual carabid species were modelled using vegetation type (grass or bracken), litter depth and wood ant density as independent explanatory variables. Models were fitted using a maximum-likelihood method (GLIM v.3.77; Baker 1985) with the assumption of a Poisson distribution, using a log-link function. Areas of high wood ant density were characterised by low abundance and species richness of carabids and high percentage dominance by the most commonly sampled species, Abax parallelepipedus. The extent and type of vegetation cover was found to influence the distribution and abundance of certain carabid species but only in areas where the density of wood ants was low. Large-bodied species occurred more frequently in bracken-dominated patches where the litter layer was deeper and the density of potential prey items was higher. Wood ant density was found to be the most important determinant of carabid species abundance in the study site.
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