Biodiversity of leaf litter and arboreal ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in a temperate Mid-Atlantic forest
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Type of Work46 pages
Chapter 1 abstract: Bioindicator species, whose presence and/or abundance are likely to change with natural and man-made changes, can provide important information regarding the environmental health of a particular ecosystem. My research aimed to measure the diversity and species richness of leaf litter ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in the E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area (WMA), a temperate forest on the lower eastern shore of Maryland. Additionally, leaf litter depth and mass was investigated to determine if there was a relationship with ant abundance at this field site. Leaf litter was collected along twenty-four, 100m transects during May, July, and September of 2015 and placed into Berlese funnels for ant extraction. A total of 14 species were collected from 144 leaf litter samples. Estimates of species richness (Chao1: 14.0 species, ACE: 15.0 species) suggest there may be one additional species that was not sampled in my study; a species accumulation curve suggests similar findings. Diversity measures were relatively low with a Shannon exponential of 4.88 and Simpson reciprocal of 2.82. The leaf litter of E.A. Vaughn WMA was dominated by a single species, Nylanderia faisonensis (Forel 1922), which accounted for 57.3% of the total ant specimens collected. Neither leaf litter depth (R2= 4E-5) nor mass (R2= 9E-6) was found to have a substantial impact on ant abundance as a whole. When individual species were examined for relationships between ant abundance and leaf litter depth/mass, no significant values were found. Thus, we conclude that leaf litter does not predict ant abundance. Chapter 2 abstract: The foraging preference of ants on deciduous and coniferous trees was examined in the E.A. Vaughn Wildlife Management Area (WMA), a coastal temperate forest of Worcester Co., Maryland. Ants were sampled using aspirators and hand collection methods from 261 trees during May, July and September of 2015. The aim of my research was to determine if ants are preferentially associated with deciduous (oaks and maples) or coniferous trees. I collected a total of 679 ants comprising 21 species, 19 on deciduous trees and 17 on conifers. Estimates of species richness (Chao1: 21.25, ACE: 22.38) suggest there may be one or two additional species that were not sampled. Using a two-tailed t-test, I found a significantly higher abundance of ants on deciduous than coniferous trees, 446 and 233 respectively (p < 0.05) though species richness was not found to vary significantly. A second goal was to examine whether ants have a preference for foraging on small, medium or large trees for both types, deciduous and coniferous. Large deciduous trees were found to have higher abundances of ants than medium or small. Aphaenogaster rudis (Emery 1895) and Aphaenogaster fulva (Roger1863a) were the most abundant ants collected. This research contributes to the ongoing bioinventory of E.A. Vaughn WMA.