The influence of riparian corridor width on ant and plant assemblages in northern Sydney, Australia

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Abstract

Protecting riparian corridors is a commonly applied environmental policy in urban landscapes. However, empirical data demonstrating their efficacy for biodiversity conservation outcomes is scarce. In this study we investigated whether riparian corridor width influences the diversity and community structure of ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and vascular plant assemblages therein. Eighteen corridors of differing widths were selected from within the Ku-ring-gai Local Government Area, Sydney Australia. Ants were sampled using pitfall traps positioned within rectangular vegetation transects (30 × 10 m). Both ant and plant species richness, when standardised for sampling effort, were unrelated to riparian corridor width. However, significant compositional differences between sites were evident with increased width up to ~50 m. Narrow corridors contained greater abundances of opportunistic ant species and higher proportions of exotic plants. We interpret this to be the result of the greater disturbance/edge influence derived from adjacent upland urban environments. Site beta diversity did not increase with corridor width, suggesting that the exclusion of novel upslope habitats in narrow riparian corridors is not a significant cause of community assemblage modification at these sites. To minimise the impact of deleterious edge effects on ant fauna, environmental managers should seek to retain riparian corridors wider than ~50 m. However, we observed substantial between-site variability of biotic assemblages, irrespective of corridor width. Therefore we recommend that environmental management practice needs to take a catchment-wide approach and consider other parameters that may contribute to riparian health so as to optimise the protection of riparian biodiversity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Volume14
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2011

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