Direct and indirect effects of land‐use intensification on ant communities in temperate grasslands

Heuss, Lisa; Grevé, Michael E.; Schäfer, Deborah; Busch, Verena; Feldhaar, Heike (2019). Direct and indirect effects of land‐use intensification on ant communities in temperate grasslands. Ecology and evolution, 9(7), pp. 4013-4024. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 10.1002/ece3.5030

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Land‐use intensification is a major driver of local species extinction and homogenization. Temperate grasslands, managed at low intensities over centuries harbored a high species diversity, which is increasingly threatened by the management intensification over the last decades. This includes key taxa like ants. However, the underlying mechanisms leading to a decrease in ant abundance and species richness as well as changes in functional community composition are not well understood. We sampled ants on 110 grassland plots in three regions in Germany. The sampled grasslands are used as meadows or pastures, being mown, grazed or fertilized at different intensities. We analyzed the effect of the different aspects of land use on ant species richness, functional trait spaces, and community composition by using a multimodel inference approach and structural equation models. Overall, we found 31 ant species belonging to 8 genera, mostly open habitat specialists. Ant species richness, functional trait space of communities, and abundance of nests decreased with increasing land‐use intensity. The land‐use practice most harmful to ants was mowing, followed by heavy grazing by cattle. Fertilization did not strongly affect ant species richness. Grazing by sheep increased the ant species richness. The effect of mowing differed between species and was strongly negative for Formica species while Myrmica and common Lasius species were less affected. Rare species occurred mainly in plots managed at low intensity. Our results show that mowing less often or later in the season would retain a higher ant species richness—similarly to most other grassland taxa. The transformation from (sheep) pastures to intensively managed meadows and especially mowing directly affects ants via the destruction of nests and indirectly via loss of grassland heterogeneity (reduced plant species richness) and increased soil moisture by shading of fast‐growing plant species.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) > Plant Ecology
08 Faculty of Science > Department of Biology > Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS)

UniBE Contributor:

Schäfer, Deborah

Subjects:

500 Science > 580 Plants (Botany)

ISSN:

2045-7758

Publisher:

John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Language:

English

Submitter:

Peter Alfred von Ballmoos-Haas

Date Deposited:

10 May 2019 11:18

Last Modified:

10 May 2019 11:18

Publisher DOI:

10.1002/ece3.5030

PubMed ID:

31015984

Uncontrolled Keywords:

arthropods; Formicidae; grassland management; grazing; mowing; species homogenization

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.130388

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/130388

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