Journal of Insect Conservation

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 177–186 | Cite as

The use of ants and other soil and litter arthropods as bio-indicators of the impacts of rainforest clearing and subsequent land use

  • Akihiro NakamuraEmail author
  • Carla P. Catterall
  • Alan P. N. House
  • Roger L. Kitching
  • Chris J. Burwell


The present study investigated the impacts of rainforest clearance, and associated subsequent land␣use for pasture, on assemblages of soil and litter arthropods in eastern subtropical Australia. We assessed the utility of soil and litter arthropods as potential bio-indicators of cleared and forested habitats. Arthropods were sampled from 24 sites (12 sites each in rainforest and pasture) using two methods (extraction from litter, pitfall traps). Responses of taxa were analysed at various levels of taxonomic resolution, including ‘coarse’ arthropods (all arthropods sorted to Order/Class), ant genera and ant species. Multivariate analyses of arthropod composition indicated that an increase in the level of taxonomic resolution did not provide a commensurate increase in the sensitivity of assemblage response. Indicator values (IndVals), computed for each taxon, showed that a number of arthropod taxa may have potential as bio-indicators of habitat change. However the use of many of these, especially many ant species found in our study, may be unreliable because even after extensive numbers of sites were sampled, most species showed patchy distributions. To overcome this problem, we generated ‘composite indices’, by combining information from sets of indicator taxa. The utility of these composite indices is discussed.


Epigeic invertebrate Forest clearance Functional group Queensland Taxonomic sufficiency 


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This study would not have been possible without the generous support of the people from Maleny. We are also grateful to Barung Landcare, Alan Andersen, Bill McDonald, Scott Piper, Heather Proctor and Cas Vanderwoude for assistance and advice. Thanks also to our volunteer workers for field and laboratory assistance. We thank anonymous reviewers who improved this manuscript. This research was supported by the Queensland Government’s Growing the Smart State program.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Akihiro Nakamura
    • 1
    Email author
  • Carla P. Catterall
    • 1
  • Alan P. N. House
    • 2
  • Roger L. Kitching
    • 1
  • Chris J. Burwell
    • 3
  1. 1.Rainforest Coperative Research Centre and Faculty of Environmental SciencesGriffith UniversityBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Sustainable EcosystemsSt LuciaAustralia
  3. 3.Queensland MuseumSouth BrisbaneAustralia

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