Effects of habitat complexity on ant assemblages


  • Scott A. Lassau,

  • Dieter F. Hochuli

S. A. Lassau (slassau@bio.usyd.edu.au) and D. F. Hochuli, Inst. of Wildlife Research, School of Biological Sciences, Heydon-Laurence Bldg A08, The Univ. of Sydney, NSW 2006, Australia.


We investigated responses of ant communities to habitat complexity, with the aim of assessing complexity as a useful surrogate for ant species diversity. We used pitfall traps to sample ants at twenty-eight sites, fourteen each of low and high habitat complexity, spread over ca 12 km in Sydney sandstone ridge-top woodland in Australia. Ant species richness was higher in low complexity areas, and negatively associated with ground herb cover, tree canopy cover, soil moisture and leaf litter. Ant community composition was affected by habitat complexity, with morphospecies from the genera Monomorium, Rhytidoponera and Meranoplus being the most significant contributors to compositional differences. Functional group responses to anthropogenic disturbance may be facilitated by local changes in habitat complexity. Habitat complexity, measured as a function of differences in multiple strata in forests, may be of great worth as a surrogate for the diversity of a range of arthropod groups including ants.