Ant diversity partitioning across spatial scales: Ecological processes and implications for conserving Tropical Dry Forests

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Abstract

Several ecological and evolutionary processes can drive changes in diversity at different spatial scales. To determine the scale at which these processes are most influential, we hypothesized that (i) broad-scale differences between ecoregions had greater influence on ant species richness and species turnover than local differences among fragments within ecoregions; and (ii) the degree of dissimilarity in ant species composition is larger between Tropical Dry Forest fragments and the surrounding vegetations than among Tropical Dry Forests located in different ecoregions, indicating that extant Tropical Dry Forests are relicts of a broader distribution of this vegetation. To examine ant diversity patterns, we built a nested hierarchical design on three spatial scales, ranging from fragments (local scale), Tropical Dry Forest + surroundings vegetation (landscape scale) and Brazilian ecoregions (regional scale). We used 450 sampling units (45 sampling units × two fragments × five ecoregions = 450). A null model based on the sample was used to identify variations in the random distribution across spatial scales. Spatial partitioning of ant diversity showed that observed β1 diversity (between fragments) and β2 diversity (among ecoregions) were higher than expected by chance. When the partitioning was analysed separately for each region, the observed β1 diversity (Tropical Dry Forest and surrounding vegetation) was higher than expected by the null hypothesis in all ecoregions of Brazil. Based on species composition and diversity patterns, we stress the importance of creating more protected areas throughout the coverage area of Tropical Dry Forests, favouring a more efficient conservation process.

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