Urban Ecosystems

, Volume 11, Issue 3, pp 317–334 | Cite as

The influence of urban park characteristics on ant (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) communities

  • Kevin M. Clarke
  • Brian L. Fisher
  • Gretchen LeBuhnEmail author


As rapid urbanization continues, existing natural areas within urban zones will play a critical role in safeguarding remaining biodiversity. Ants are an integral part of almost every terrestrial ecosystem, including urban environments, and understanding which environmental characteristics influence their persistence is critical. In this study, 24 protected natural areas within urban parks including mosaic, scrub, herbaceous and forest habitats were surveyed for ants with 563 pitfall traps. The data provide insights into the distribution and abundance of ant fauna in San Francisco natural areas, as well as which characteristics of parks have the most influence on ant community composition. A total of 2,068 ant individuals representing 15 species were collected. A regression analysis revealed that urban forests reduced ant richness and abundance and that there was little or no impact of the Argentine ant on native ants. Natural area size and shape were not important in explaining variations in overall ant species richness and abundance, with many smaller natural areas harboring ant populations that are just as diverse and robust as larger areas.


Urbanization Natural areas Argentine ant San Francisco Forest Conservation 



We thank The San Francisco Recreation and Parks Natural Areas Program for data and access to study sites, Edward F. Connor for advice on statistical analysis and manuscript comments and Barry Nickel at San Francisco State for help with GIS. We are grateful for help in the field from Maureen Harrison and the constructive comments from members of the LeBuhn Lab. Kevin M. Clarke was supported by the California Academy of Sciences Graduate Assistantship Program and SFSU SEPAL GK-12 Partnership Program funded by the National Science Foundation.


  1. Adams LW (2005) Urban wildlife ecology and conservation: a brief history of the discipline. Urban Ecosyst 8:139–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams LW, Dove LE (1989) Wildlife reserves and corridors in the urban environment. National Institute for Urban Wild, Columbia, MDGoogle Scholar
  3. Ahrens CD (1994) Meteorology today. West Publishing, St. Paul, MNGoogle Scholar
  4. Andersen AN (1995) A classification of Australian ant communities, based on functional-groups which parallel plant life-forms in relation to stress and disturbance. J Biogeogr 22:15–29CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Andersen AN, Hoffmann BD, Muller WJ, Griffiths AD (2002) Using ants as bioindicators in land management: simplifying assessment of ant community responses. J Appl Ecol 39:8–17CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Angilletta MJ, Wilson RS, Niehaus AC, Sears MW, Navas CA, Ribeiro PL (2007) Urban physiology: city ants possess high heat tolerance. PLoS ONE 2:e258PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Azevedo J, Morgan DL (1974) Fog precipitation in coastal California forests. Ecology 55:1135–1141CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Baur B, Baur A (1993) Climatic warming due to thermal-radiation from an urban area as possible cause for the local extinction of a land snail. J Appl Ecol 30:333–340CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Beattie AJ (1985) The evolutionary ecology of ant–plant mutualisms. Cambridge Univ. Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  10. Bestelmeyer BT, Wiens JA (2001) Ant biodiversity in semiarid landscape mosaics: the consequences of grazing vs. natural heterogeneity. Ecol Appl 11:1123–1140CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Beyer HL (2004) Hawth's analysis tools for ArcGIS. Available at
  12. Bolger DT, Suarez AV, Crooks KR, Morrison SA, Case TJ (2000) Arthropods in urban habitat fragments in southern California: area, age, and edge effects. Ecol Appl 10:1230–1248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Bond W, Slingsby P (1984) Collapse of an ant–plant mutualism—the Argentine ant (Iridomyrmex humilis) and myrmecochorous Proteaceae. Ecology 65:1031–1037CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Clark WH, Prusso DC (1986) Desmidiospora myrmecophila found infesting the ant Camponotus semitestaceus. Mycologia 78:865–866CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Colwell RK, Coddington JA (1994) Estimating terrestrial biodiversity through extrapolation. Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 345:101–118PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Connor EF, Hafernik J, Levy J, Moore VL, Rickman J (2003) Insect conservation in an urban biodiversity hotspot: the San Francisco Bay area. J Insect Conserv 6:247–259CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Crooks KR, Soulé ME (1999) Mesopredator release and avifaunal extinctions in a fragmented system. Nature 400:563–566CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Dauber J, Bengtsson J, Lenoir L (2006) Evaluating effects of habitat loss and land-use continuity on ant species richness in seminatural grassland remnants. Conserv Biol 20:1150–1160PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dickman CR (1987) Habitat fragmentation and vertebrate species richness in an urban-environment. J Appl Ecol 24:337–351CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Drayton B, Primack RB (1996) Plant species lost in an isolated conservation area in Metropolitan Boston from 1894 to 1993. Conserv Biol 10:30–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dreistadt SH, Dahlsten DL, Frankie GW (1990) Urban forests and insect ecology. Bioscience 40:192–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. EIP Associates (2005) Significant natural resources management plan. Prepared for San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, Natural Areas Program. June 2005Google Scholar
  23. Fisher BL (1997) A comparison of ant assemblages (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) on serpentine and non-serpentine soils in northern California. Insectes Soc 44:23–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Fisher BL, Davis L, Ward PS (2007) Antweb: ants of the bay area, Available via Cited August 23, 2007
  25. Folgarait PJ (1998) Ant biodiversity and its relationship to ecosystem functioning: a review. Biodivers Conserv 7:1221–1244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Forman RT (1995) Land mosaics: the ecology of landscapes and regions. Cambridge Univ. Press, NYGoogle Scholar
  27. Frankie GW, Ehler LE (1978) Ecology of insects in urban environments. Ann Rev Entomol 23:367–387CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gaston KJ (1996) Biodiversity. A biology of numbers and differences. Blackwell, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  29. Gibb H, Hochuli DF (2002) Habitat fragmentation in an urban environment: large and small fragments support different arthropod assemblages. Biol Conserv 106:91–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gilliam H (1962) Weather of the San Francisco Bay region. Univ. of California Press, Berkeley, CAGoogle Scholar
  31. Gotelli NJ, Ellison AM (2002) Biogeography at a regional scale: determinants of ant species density in New England bogs and forests. Ecology 83:1604–1609Google Scholar
  32. Hafernik JE, Reinhard H (1995) Butterflies by the bay: winners and losers in San Francisco’s urban jungle. Am Butterflies 3:4–11Google Scholar
  33. Hitchings SP, Beebee TJ (1998) Loss of genetic diversity and fitness in common toad (Bufo bufo) populations isolated by inimical habitat. J Evol Biol 11:269–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Hölldobler B, Wilson E (1990) The ants. Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MAGoogle Scholar
  35. Holway DA (1999) Competitive mechanisms underlying the displacement of native ants by the invasive Argentine ant. Ecology 80:238–251Google Scholar
  36. Holway DA, Suarez AV (2006) Homogenization of ant communities in Mediterranean California: the effects of urbanization and invasion. Biol Conserv 127:319–326CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Holway DA, Suarez AV, Case TJ (2002) The role of abiotic factors in governing susceptibility to invasion: a test with a widespread invasive social insect. Ecology 83:1610–1619CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Human KG, Gordon DM (1996) Exploitation and interference competition between the invasive Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, and native ant species. Oecologia 105:405–412CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Human KG, Gordon DM (1997) Effects of Argentine ants on invertebrate biodiversity in northern California. Conserv Biol 11:1242–1248CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Jim CY (1998) Soil characteristics and management in an urban park in Hong Kong. Environ Manag 22:683–695CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Johnson RA (1992) Soil texture as an influence on the distribution of the desert seed-harvester ants Pogonomyrmex rugosus and Messor pergandei. Oecologia 89:118–124CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Knight RL, Rust MK (1990) The urban ants of California with distribution notes of imported species. Southwest Entomol 15:167–178Google Scholar
  43. Laakkonen J, Fisher RN, Case TJ (2001) Effect of land cover, habitat fragmentation and ant colonies on the distribution and abundance of shrews in Southern California. J Anim Ecol 70:776–788CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Lassau SA, Hochuli DF (2004) Effects of habitat complexity on ant assemblages. Ecography 27:157–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Lessard JP, Buddle CM (2005) The effects of urbanization on ant assemblages (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) associated with the Molson Nature Reserve, Quebec. Can Entomol 137:215–225Google Scholar
  46. Lopez-Moreno IR, Diaz-Betancourt ME, Landa TS (2003) Social insects in human environments—ants in the city of Coatepec, Veracruz, Mexico. Sociobiology 42:605–621Google Scholar
  47. MacArthur RH, Wilson EO (1967) The theory of island biogeography. Princeton Univ. Press, Princeton, NJGoogle Scholar
  48. Magurran AE (2004) Measuring biological diversity. Blackwell, Maldan, MAGoogle Scholar
  49. Majer JD (1994) Spread of Argentine ants (Linepthema humile), with special reference to Western Australia. In: Williams DF (ed) Exotic ants: biology, impact, and control of introduced species. Westview Press, Boulder, CO, pp 163–173Google Scholar
  50. Mangel M, Tier C (1994) 4 facts every conservation biologist should know about persistence. Ecology 75:607–614CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. McFrederick QS, LeBuhn G (2006) Are urban parks refuges for bumble bees Bombus spp. (Hymenoptera: Apidae)? Biol Conserv 129:372–382CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. McIntyre NE, Rango J, Fagan WF, Faeth SH (2001) Ground arthropod community structure in a heterogeneous urban environment. Landsc Urban Plan 52:257–274CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Melbourne BA (1999) Bias in the effect of habitat structure on pitfall traps: an experimental evaluation. Aust J Ecol 24:228–239CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Moffatt SF, McLachlan SM, Kenkel NC (2004) Impacts of land use on riparian forest along an urban–rural gradient in southern Manitoba. Plant Ecol 174:119–135CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Montanucci RR (1989) The relationship of morphology to diet in the horned lizard genus phrynosoma. Herpetologica 45:208–216Google Scholar
  56. Newell W, Barber TC (1913) The Argentine ant. Bureau of Entomology Bulletin 122. USDA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  57. Niemela J (1999) Ecology and urban planning. Biodivers Conserv 8:119–131CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Null J (1992) The climatology of San Francisco rainfall 1849–1991. MA Thesis, San Jose State UniversityGoogle Scholar
  59. Pacheco R, Vasconcelos HL (2007) Invertebrate conservation in urban areas: ants in the Brazilian Cerrado. Landsc Urban Plan 81:193–199CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Patton DR (1975) A diversity index for quantifying habitat ‘edge’. Wildl Soc Bull 3:171–173Google Scholar
  61. Perfecto I, Vandermeer J (1996) Microclimatic changes and the indirect loss of ant diversity in a tropical agroecosystem. Oecologia 108:577–582CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Poland TM, McCullough DG (2006) Emerald ash borer: invasion of the urban forest and the threat to North America's ash resource. J For 104:118–124Google Scholar
  63. Pyle R, Bentzien M, Opler P (1981) Insect conservation. Ann Rev Entomol 26:233–258CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Sanders NJ, Barton KE, Gordon DM (2001) Long-term dynamics of the distribution of the invasive Argentine ant, Linepithema humile, and native ant taxa in northern California. Oecologia 127:123–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Saunders DA, Hobbs RJ, Margules CR (1991) Biological consequences of ecosystem fragmentation—a review. Conserv Biol 5:18–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Soulé ME (1987) Viable populations for conservation. Cambridge Univ. Press, NYGoogle Scholar
  67. SPSS (2001) SPSS for Windows, Rel. 11.0.1. SPSS, ChicagoGoogle Scholar
  68. Suarez AV, Bolger DT, Case TJ (1998) Effects of fragmentation and invasion on native ant communities in coastal southern California. Ecology 79:2041–2056Google Scholar
  69. Suarez AV, Holway DA, Case TJ (2001) Patterns of spread in biological invasions dominated by long-distance jump dispersal: insights from Argentine ants. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 98:1095–1100PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Thompson B, McLachlan S (2007) The effects of urbanization on ant communities and myrmecochory in Manitoba, Canada. Urban Ecosyst 10:43–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Tilden JW (1956) San Francisco's vanishing butterflies. Lep News 10:3–4Google Scholar
  72. Tschinkel WR (1987) Seasonal life-history and nest architecture of a winter-active ant, Prenolepis imparis. Insectes Soc 34:143–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Underwood EC, Fisher BL (2006) The role of ants in conservation monitoring: if, when, and how. Biol Conserv 132:166–182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. United Nations (2004) World urbanization prospects: the 2003 revision. Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  75. U.S. Census Bureau (2000) County and city data book: 2000. US Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Washington, DC Table C-1Google Scholar
  76. Vega SY, Rust MK (2001) Developing marking techniques to study movement and foraging of Argentine ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Sociobiology 37:27–39Google Scholar
  77. Walters AC (2006) Invasion of Argentine ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in South Australia: impacts on community composition and abundance of invertebrates in urban parklands. Austral Ecol 31:567–576CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Wang CL, Strazanac JS, Butler L (2001) Association between ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and habitat characteristics in oak-dominated mixed forests. Environ Entomol 30:842–848CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Ward PS (1987) Distribution of the introduced Argentine ant (Iridomyrmex mumilis) in natural habitats of the lower Sacramento Valley and its effects on the indigenous ant fauna. Hilgardia 55:1–16Google Scholar
  80. Ward PS (2005) A synoptic review of the ants of California (Hymenoptera: Formicidae). Zootaxa 936:3–68Google Scholar
  81. Way MJ, Cammell ME, Paiva MR, Collingwood CA (1997) Distribution and dynamics of the Argentine ant Linepithema (iridomyrmex) humile (Mayr) in relation to vegetation, soil conditions, topography and native competitor ants in Portugal. Insectes Soc 44:415–433CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  82. Yamaguchi T (2005) Influence of urbanization on ant distribution in parks of Tokyo and Chiba City, Japan II. Analysis of species. Entomol Sci 8:17–25CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  83. Yilmaz S, Toy S, Irmak MA, Yilmaz H (2007) Determination of climatic differences in three different land uses in the city of Erzurum, Turkey. Build Environ 42:1604–1612CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Zar JH (1999) Biostatistical analysis, 4th edn. Prentice-Hall, Upper Saddle River, NJGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kevin M. Clarke
    • 1
  • Brian L. Fisher
    • 2
  • Gretchen LeBuhn
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of BiologySan Francisco State UniversitySan FranciscoUSA
  2. 2.Department of EntomologyCalifornia Academy of SciencesSan FranciscoUSA

Personalised recommendations