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      The Effect of Urbanization on Ant Abundance and Diversity: A Temporal Examination of Factors Affecting Biodiversity


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          Numerous studies have examined the effect of urbanization on species richness and most studies implicate urbanization as the major cause of biodiversity loss. However, no study has identified an explicit connection between urbanization and biodiversity loss as the impact of urbanization is typically inferred indirectly by comparing species diversity along urban-rural gradients at a single time point. A different approach is to focus on the temporal rather than the spatial aspect and perform “before and after” studies where species diversity is cataloged over time in the same sites. The current study examined changes in ant abundance and diversity associated with the conversion of natural habitats into urban habitats. Ant abundance and diversity were tracked in forested sites that became urbanized through construction and were examined at 3 time points - before, during, and after construction. On average, 4.3±1.2 unique species were detected in undisturbed plots prior to construction. Ant diversity decreased to 0.7±0.8 species in plots undergoing construction and 1.5±1.1 species in plots 1 year after construction was completed. With regard to species richness, urbanization resulted in the permanent loss of 17 of the 20 species initially present in the study plots. Recovery was slow and only 3 species were present right after construction was completed and 4 species were present 1 year after construction was completed. The second objective examined ant fauna recovery in developed residential lots based on time since construction, neighboring habitat quality, pesticide inputs, and the presence of invasive ants. Ant diversity was positively correlated with factors that promoted ecological recovery and negatively correlated with factors that promoted ecological degradation. Taken together, these results address a critical gap in our knowledge by characterizing the short- and long-term the effects of urbanization on the loss of ant biodiversity.

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          Most cited references 11

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          Scenarios of changes in biodiversity for the year 2100 can now be developed based on scenarios of changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide, climate, vegetation, and land use and the known sensitivity of biodiversity to these changes. This study identified a ranking of the importance of drivers of change, a ranking of the biomes with respect to expected changes, and the major sources of uncertainties. For terrestrial ecosystems, land-use change probably will have the largest effect, followed by climate change, nitrogen deposition, biotic exchange, and elevated carbon dioxide concentration. For freshwater ecosystems, biotic exchange is much more important. Mediterranean climate and grassland ecosystems likely will experience the greatest proportional change in biodiversity because of the substantial influence of all drivers of biodiversity change. Northern temperate ecosystems are estimated to experience the least biodiversity change because major land-use change has already occurred. Plausible changes in biodiversity in other biomes depend on interactions among the causes of biodiversity change. These interactions represent one of the largest uncertainties in projections of future biodiversity change.
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             Frank Rahel (2000)
            Fish faunas across the continental United States have become more similar through time because of widespread introductions of a group of cosmopolitan species intended to enhance food and sport fisheries. On average, pairs of states have 15.4 more species in common now than before European settlement of North America. The 89 pairs of states that formerly had no species in common now share an average of 25.2 species. Introductions have played a larger role than extirpations in homogenizing fish faunas. Western and New England states have received the most introductions, which is a reflection of the small number of native fishes in these areas considered desirable gamefish by settlers.
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              Biotic homogenization: a few winners replacing many losers in the next mass extinction.

              Human activities are not random in their negative and positive impacts on biotas. Emerging evidence shows that most species are declining as a result of human activities ('losers') and are being replaced by a much smaller number of expanding species that thrive in human-altered environments ('winners'). The result will be a more homogenized biosphere with lower diversity at regional and global scales. Recent data also indicate that the many losers and few winners tend to be non-randomly distributed among higher taxa and ecological groups, enhancing homogenization.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                2 August 2012
                : 7
                : 8
                Department of Entomology, Purdue University, West Lafayette, Indiana, United States of America
                Stanford University, United States of America
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: GB. Performed the experiments: GB. Analyzed the data: GB DR. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: GB. Wrote the paper: GB DR.


                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Pages: 9
                Grzegorz Buczkowski was supported by the Industrial Affiliates Program at Purdue University. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.
                Research Article
                Community Ecology
                Community Structure
                Species Interactions
                Ecological Environments
                Terrestrial Environments
                Ecosystem Functioning
                Conservation Science
                Environmental Protection
                Global Change Ecology
                Restoration Ecology
                Species Extinction
                Terrestrial Ecology
                Urban Ecology



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