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Oil palm expansion into rain forest greatly reduces ant biodiversity in canopy, epiphytes and leaf-litter

Oil palm expansion into rain forest greatly reduces ant biodiversity in canopy, epiphytes and leaf-litter
Oil palm expansion into rain forest greatly reduces ant biodiversity in canopy, epiphytes and leaf-litter
Oil palm cultivation is expanding rapidly into many of the world's most biodiverse tropical regions. One of the most functionally important and ecologically dominant animal groups in these environments is the ants. Here, we quantify the overall impacts of clear-felling lowland dipterocarp rainforest and conversion into oil palm plantation on ant diversity. At study sites in Sabah, Malaysia we collected ants from three microhabitats: 1 – the canopy, 2 – bird's nest ferns (Asplenium nidus complex, a common epiphyte in forest and oil palm), and 3 – leaf litter. We also measured temperature, humidity and light at collection sites to assess their impacts on ant community composition. Total ant species richness decreased from 309 to 110 (?64%) between forest and oil palm plantation. However, this impact was not the same across all microhabitats, with bird's nest ferns maintaining almost the same number of ant species in oil palm compared to forest (forest-oil palm, ferns: 36–35 (3% loss), canopy: 120–58 (52% loss), leaf litter: 216–56 (74% loss)). Relative abundance distributions remained the same for fern-dwelling ants, but became less even for oil palm ants in both the canopy and the leaf litter. These differences may be due in part to the ability of bird's nest ferns to provide a stable microclimate in hot, dry plantations. We also found that non-native ant species were more abundant in oil palm than in forest, and few forest ant species survived in plantations in any of the microhabitats. Only 59 of the 309 forest species persisted in oil palm plantations, corresponding to an 81% loss of forest species resulting from habitat conversion. Although oil palm supports many more ant species than has been previously reported, converting forest into plantation still leads to a dramatic reduction in species richness. The maintenance of forested areas is therefore vital for the conservation of ant biodiversity.
1439-1791
337-345
Fayle, Tom M.
a4b1b9e4-5023-4460-9b22-167ab3b042dd
Turner, Edgar C.
eb83e88d-a250-4c65-9b1e-0113d778fdd2
Snaddon, Jake L.
31a601f7-c9b0-45e2-b59b-fda9a0c5a54b
Khen, Chey V.
1dcebccc-45d1-488a-9abe-3f3ea3899d39
Chung, Arthur
bb904a27-9566-40dc-9e9a-fd91c4542da8
Eggleton, Paul
165575cf-831e-4553-9728-e61790896466
Foster, William A.
70203963-790e-408c-a632-f8e40c504d59
Fayle, Tom M.
a4b1b9e4-5023-4460-9b22-167ab3b042dd
Turner, Edgar C.
eb83e88d-a250-4c65-9b1e-0113d778fdd2
Snaddon, Jake L.
31a601f7-c9b0-45e2-b59b-fda9a0c5a54b
Khen, Chey V.
1dcebccc-45d1-488a-9abe-3f3ea3899d39
Chung, Arthur
bb904a27-9566-40dc-9e9a-fd91c4542da8
Eggleton, Paul
165575cf-831e-4553-9728-e61790896466
Foster, William A.
70203963-790e-408c-a632-f8e40c504d59

Fayle, Tom M., Turner, Edgar C., Snaddon, Jake L., Khen, Chey V., Chung, Arthur, Eggleton, Paul and Foster, William A. (2010) Oil palm expansion into rain forest greatly reduces ant biodiversity in canopy, epiphytes and leaf-litter Basic and Applied Ecology, 11, (4), pp. 337-345. (doi:10.1016/j.baae.2009.12.009).

Record type: Article

Abstract

Oil palm cultivation is expanding rapidly into many of the world's most biodiverse tropical regions. One of the most functionally important and ecologically dominant animal groups in these environments is the ants. Here, we quantify the overall impacts of clear-felling lowland dipterocarp rainforest and conversion into oil palm plantation on ant diversity. At study sites in Sabah, Malaysia we collected ants from three microhabitats: 1 – the canopy, 2 – bird's nest ferns (Asplenium nidus complex, a common epiphyte in forest and oil palm), and 3 – leaf litter. We also measured temperature, humidity and light at collection sites to assess their impacts on ant community composition. Total ant species richness decreased from 309 to 110 (?64%) between forest and oil palm plantation. However, this impact was not the same across all microhabitats, with bird's nest ferns maintaining almost the same number of ant species in oil palm compared to forest (forest-oil palm, ferns: 36–35 (3% loss), canopy: 120–58 (52% loss), leaf litter: 216–56 (74% loss)). Relative abundance distributions remained the same for fern-dwelling ants, but became less even for oil palm ants in both the canopy and the leaf litter. These differences may be due in part to the ability of bird's nest ferns to provide a stable microclimate in hot, dry plantations. We also found that non-native ant species were more abundant in oil palm than in forest, and few forest ant species survived in plantations in any of the microhabitats. Only 59 of the 309 forest species persisted in oil palm plantations, corresponding to an 81% loss of forest species resulting from habitat conversion. Although oil palm supports many more ant species than has been previously reported, converting forest into plantation still leads to a dramatic reduction in species richness. The maintenance of forested areas is therefore vital for the conservation of ant biodiversity.

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Published date: June 2010
Organisations: Centre for Biological Sciences

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Local EPrints ID: 359403
URI: http://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/359403
ISSN: 1439-1791
PURE UUID: 486fecec-15e6-4e99-aa91-db9085c8c8bb
ORCID for Jake L. Snaddon: ORCID iD orcid.org/0000-0003-3549-5472

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Date deposited: 01 Nov 2013 13:40
Last modified: 18 Jul 2017 03:21

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Author: Tom M. Fayle
Author: Edgar C. Turner
Author: Jake L. Snaddon ORCID iD
Author: Chey V. Khen
Author: Arthur Chung
Author: Paul Eggleton
Author: William A. Foster

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