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Ellison Abstract- 2007 Sanders et al

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Sanders, N. J., N. J. Gotelli, S. E. Wittman, J. S. Ratchford, A. M. Ellison, and E. S. Jules. 2007. Assembly rules of ground-foraging ant assemblages are contingent on disturbance, habitat, and spatial scale. Journal of Biogeography 34: 1632-1641.


Aim A major endeavour of community ecology is documenting non-random patterns in composition and body size of coexisting species, and inferring the processes, or assembly rules, that may have given rise to the observed patterns. Such assembly rules include species sorting due to interspecific competition, aggregation at patchily distributed resources, and coevolutionary dynamics. However, for any given taxon, relatively little is known about how these patterns and processes change through time and vary with habitat type, disturbance history, and among spatial scales. Here, we tested for non-random patterns of species co-occurrence and body size in assemblages of ground-foraging ants and asked whether those patterns varied among habitat type, disturbance history, and spatial scale.

Location Burned and unburned forests and fens in the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon and northern California, USA

Methods We describe ground-foraging ant assemblages sampled over two years in two discrete habitat types – Darlingtonia fens and upland forests. Half of these sites had been subject to a large-scale, discrete disturbance – a major fire – in the year prior to our first sample. We used null model analyses to compare observed species co-occurrence patterns and body size distributions in these assemblages to randomly generated assemblages unstructured by competition both within (i.e., at a local spatial scale) and among (i.e., at a regional scale) sites.

Results At local spatial scales, species co-occurrence patterns and body-size ratios did not differ from randomness. At regional scales, co-occurrence patterns were random or aggregated, and there was evidence for constant body-size ratios of forest ants. Although these patterns varied between habitats and years, they did not differ between burned and unburned sites.

Main conclusions Our results suggest that the operation of assembly rules depends on spatial scale and habitat type, but was not affected by disturbance history from fire.

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