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Forest disturbance increases functional diversity but decreases phylogenetic diversity of an arboreal tropical ant community

Hoenle, Philipp O., Plowman, Nichola S., Matos‐Maraví, Pável, de Bello, Francesco, Bishop, Tom R., Libra, Martin, Idigel, Cliffson, Rimandai, Maling and Klimes, Petr 2024. Forest disturbance increases functional diversity but decreases phylogenetic diversity of an arboreal tropical ant community. Journal of Animal Ecology 93 (4) , pp. 501-516. 10.1111/1365-2656.14060

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Tropical rainforest trees host a diverse arthropod fauna that can be characterised by their functional diversity (FD) and phylogenetic diversity (PD). Human disturbance degrades tropical forests, often coinciding with species invasion and altered assembly that leads to a decrease in FD and PD. Tree canopies are thought to be particularly vulnerable, but rarely investigated. Here, we studied the effects of forest disturbance on an ecologically important invertebrate group, the ants, in a lowland rainforest in New Guinea. We compared an early successional disturbed plot (secondary forest) to an old‐growth plot (primary forest) by exhaustively sampling their ant communities in a total of 852 trees. We expected that for each tree community (1) disturbance would decrease FD and PD in tree‐dwelling ants, mediated through species invasion. (2) Disturbance would decrease ant trait variation due to a more homogeneous environment. (3) The main drivers behind these changes would be different contributions of true tree‐nesting species and visiting species. We calculated FD and PD based on a species‐level phylogeny and 10 ecomorphological traits. Furthermore, we assessed by data exclusion the influence of species, which were not nesting in individual trees (visitors) or only nesting species (nesters), and of non‐native species on FD and PD. Primary forests had higher ant species richness and PD than secondary forest. However, we consistently found increased FD in secondary forest. This pattern was robust even if we decoupled functional and phylogenetic signals, or if non‐native ant species were excluded from the data. Visitors did not contribute strongly to FD, but they increased PD and their community weighted trait means often varied from nesters. Moreover, all community‐weighted trait means changed after forest disturbance. Our finding of contradictory FD and PD patterns highlights the importance of integrative measures of diversity. Our results indicate that the tree community trait diversity is not negatively affected, but possibly even enhanced by disturbance. Therefore, the functional diversity of arboreal ants is relatively robust when compared between old‐growth and young trees. However, further study with higher plot‐replication is necessary to solidify and generalise our findings.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Biosciences
Additional Information: License information from Publisher: LICENSE 1: URL:
Publisher: Wiley
ISSN: 0021-8790
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 29 February 2024
Date of Acceptance: 19 January 2024
Last Modified: 08 May 2024 14:24

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