Environmental Variables Affecting Ant (Formicidae) Community Composition in Mississippi’s Black Belt Prairie and Flatwoods Regions JoVonn G. Hill, Richard L. Brown, and Joe A. MacGown
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Environmental Variables Affecting Ant (Formicidae) Community Composition in Mississippi’s Black Belt Prairie and Flatwoods Regions
JoVonn G. Hill,Richard L. Brown, and Joe A. MacGown
Mississippi Entomological Museum, Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology, Box 9775, Mississippi State University, MS 39762.
Numerous species of ants have habitat preferences and respond quickly to disturbances to their environment; making them valuable for habitat monitoring. However, the effects of various environmental factors on ant communities remain uncertain (Wang et al. 2001 Env. Ent. 30: 439-448). This study investigates the relationship of ant community composition to various habitat characteristics by comparing ant communities and several environmental variables across four habitat types in the Black Belt Prairie and Flatwoods physiographic regions of Mississippi. The four habitat types include prairie, pasture, and upland forests in the Black Belt region and forests in the Flatwoods region (Figure 1).
A. Cold Climate Specialists: 1. Stenamma meridionale Smith, 2. Prenolepis imparis (Say). B. Cryptic species: 3. Pyramica ornata (Mayr), 4. Hypoponera inexorata (Wheeler). C.Dominant Dolichoderinae: 5. Forelius mccooki (McCook), 6. Tapinoma sessile (Say).
Three sites were chosen for each of the four habitat types (Figure 2). At each site three circular plots, with a diameter of 25m each, were established. Six pitfall traps were run in each plot and checked twice a month from June to October 2003. Baits (tuna fish or shortbread cookie) were placed in each plot and all attracted ants were collected after 30 minutes. During this period all other foraging or nesting ants detected in each plot were hand collected. Baiting and hand collecting were done from June to October 2003 and from April to December 2004. Soil and litter samples (3.75 L per sample) were collected once a month from each forest plot in 2003 and twice a month in 2004, then placed in a Berlese funnels for 5-7 days for specimen extraction. All ant specimens were identified to species and assigned to one of six functional groups based on Andersen (1997. Jour. Biogeography 24: 433-460).
D. Generalized Myrmicinae: 7. Solenopsis richteri Forel, 8. Crematogaster lineolata (Say). E. Opportunists: 9. Pheidole pilifera (Roger), 10. Polyergus lucidus longicornis Smith. F. Subordinate Camponotini: 11. Camponotus snellingi Bolton, 12. Camponotus mississippiensis Smith.