Linking ecological function to species composition in ecological restoration: Seed removal by ants in recreated woodland


*Present address: Sydney Wildlife World, Aquarium Pier, Darling Harbor NSW 2000, Australia (Email:


Evaluations of ecological restoration typically focus on associating measures of structural properties of ecosystems (e.g. species diversity) with time since restoration efforts commenced. Such studies often conclude a failure to achieve restoration goals without examining functional performance of the organism assemblages in question. We compared diversity and composition of ant assemblages and the rates of seed removal by ants in pastures, 4- to 10-year old revegetated areas and remnants of Cumberland Plain Woodland, and an endangered ecological community in Sydney, Australia. Ant assemblages of forest remnant sites had significantly higher species richness, significantly different species composition and a more complex functional group structure in comparison with ant assemblages of pasture and revegetated sites, which did not differ significantly. However, the rates of seed removal by ants in revegetated sites were similar to those in forest remnants, with the rates in pasture sites being significantly lower. Approximately, one-third of all ant species were observed to remove seeds. Forest remnant sites had significantly different assemblages of seed removing ant species from those in pasture and revegetated sites. These results demonstrate that similar ant assemblages of unrestored and restored areas can function differently, depending on habitat context. Evaluation of restoration success by quantifying ecosystem structure and function offers more insights into ecosystem recovery than reliance on structural data alone.