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Anthropogenic disturbance changes the structure of arboreal tropical ant communities

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We investigated the influence of anthropogenic disturbance on the structure of arboreal Formicidae communities in SE Asian lowland forests. Included were a primary forest and three disturbed forests which had been cut for crop planting and abandoned 5, 15, and 40 yr after agricultural use for natural regeneration. Ant communities of at least 10 individuals of one tree species were sampled from each forest type by fogging. Diversity and community structure differed clearly among forest types. During the course of forest regeneration ant communities became more and more similar to those of the primary forest. A surrogate analysis shows that ant communities of the primary forest cannot be distinguished from randomly composed communities. This is in contrast to the theoretical expectations according to which ant communities should be structured by interspecific competition that lead to a large degree of predictability. However, a deterministic pattern of ant communities is found in the disturbed forest. This indicates that human disturbance not only changes the faunistic composition of ant communities but could also change the dynamics of the whole system. The transition from stochastic to deterministic communities might be of general importance for understanding the mechanisms structuring communities in disturbed habitats.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2001

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