Landscape Ecology

, Volume 28, Issue 7, pp 1387–1400 | Cite as

Physical and land-cover variables influence ant functional groups and species diversity along elevational gradients

  • Abel Bernadou
  • Régis Céréghino
  • Hugues Barcet
  • Maud Combe
  • Xavier Espadaler
  • Vincent Fourcassié
Research article


Of particular importance in shaping species assemblages is the spatial heterogeneity of the environment. The aim of our study was to investigate the influence of spatial heterogeneity and environmental complexity on the distribution of ant functional groups and species diversity along altitudinal gradients in a temperate ecosystem (Pyrenees Mountains). During three summers, we sampled 20 sites distributed across two Pyrenean valleys ranging in altitude from 1,009 to 2,339 m by using pitfall traps and hand collection. The environment around each sampling points was characterized by using both physical and land-cover variables. We then used a self-organizing map algorithm (SOM, neural network) to detect and characterize the relationship between the spatial distribution of ant functional groups, species diversity, and the variables measured. The use of SOM allowed us to reduce the apparent complexity of the environment to five clusters that highlighted two main gradients: an altitudinal gradient and a gradient of environmental closure. The composition of ant functional groups and species diversity changed along both of these gradients and was differently affected by environmental variables. The SOM also allowed us to validate the contours of most ant functional groups by highlighting the response of these groups to the environmental and land-cover variables.


Ants Community ecology Elevation gradient Landscape heterogeneity Neural networks Pyrenees 



We thank Arnaud Legoff for assistance with field work and data collection. A.B. was financed by a doctoral grant from the Fundació Crèdit Andorra.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 12 kb)
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Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 15 kb)
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Abel Bernadou
    • 1
    • 5
  • Régis Céréghino
    • 2
  • Hugues Barcet
    • 3
  • Maud Combe
    • 1
  • Xavier Espadaler
    • 4
  • Vincent Fourcassié
    • 1
  1. 1.Centre de Recherches sur la Cognition Animale, UPS, CNRSUniversité de ToulouseToulouse cedex 9France
  2. 2.EcoLabUniversité Paul SabatierToulouse cedex 4France
  3. 3.UMR 5602 CNRS, Maison de la Recherche du Mirail, GeodeUniversité Toulouse II-Le MirailToulouseFrance
  4. 4.Departament de Biologia Animal, de Biologia Vegetal i d’Ecologia, Facultat de CiènciesUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain
  5. 5.Evolution, Behaviour & Genetics—Biology IUniversity of RegensburgRegensburgGermany

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