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You are here: Home / Library / RBINS Staff Publications 2018 / Resource use and food preferences in understory ant communities along a complete elevational gradient in Papua New Guinea

Jérôme Orivel, Petr Klimes, Vojtech Novotny and Maurice Leponce (2018)

Resource use and food preferences in understory ant communities along a complete elevational gradient in Papua New Guinea

Biotropica, 50(4):641-648.

Elevational gradients provide an interesting opportunity for studying the effect of climatic drivers over short distances on the various facets of biodiversity. It is globally assumed that the decrease in species richness with increasing elevation follows mainly the decrease in ecosystem productivity, but studies on functional diversity still remain limited. Here, we investigated how resource use and food preferences by both individual ant species and communities foraging in the understory vary with elevation along a complete elevational gradient (200 to 3200 m asl). Five bait types reflecting some of the main ecosystem processes in which ants are involved were tested: mutualism (sucrose and melezitose), predation (live termites), and detritivory (crushed insects and chicken feces). The observed monotonic decrease in both species richness and occurrences with elevation increase was accompanied by changes in some of the tested ecosystem processes. Such variations can be explained by resource availability and/or resource limitation: Predation and bird feces removal decreased with increasing elevation possibly reflecting a decline in species able to use these resources, while insect detritivory and nectarivory were most probably driven by resource limitation (or absence of limitation), as their relative use did not change along the gradient. Consequently, resource attractiveness (i.e., food preferences at the species level) appears as an important factor in driving community structuring in ants together with the abiotic environmental conditions.

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