Urban habitat complexity affects species richness but not environmental filtering of morphologically diverse ants

Alessandro Ossola, Michael A. Nash, Fiona J. Christie, Amy K. Hahs, Stephen J. Livesley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
6 Downloads (Pure)


Habitat complexity is a major determinant of structure and diversity of ant assemblages. Following the size-grain hypothesis, smaller ant species are likely to be advantaged in more complex habitats compared to larger species. Habitat complexity can act as an environmental filter based on species size and morphological traits, therefore affecting the overall structure and diversity of ant assemblages. In natural and semi-natural ecosystems, habitat complexity is principally regulated by ecological successions or disturbance such as fire and grazing. Urban ecosystems provide an opportunity to test relationships between habitat, ant assemblage structure and ant traits using novel combinations of habitat complexity generated and sustained by human management. We sampled ant assemblages in low-complexity and high-complexity parks, and high-complexity woodland remnants, hypothesizing that (i) ant abundance and species richness would be higher in high-complexity urban habitats, (ii) ant assemblages would differ between low- and high-complexity habitats and (iii) ants living in high-complexity habitats would be smaller than those living in low-complexity habitats. Contrary to our hypothesis, ant species richness was higher in low-complexity habitats compared to high-complexity habitats. Overall, ant assemblages were significantly different among the habitat complexity types investigated, although ant size and morphology remained the same. Habitat complexity appears to affect the structure of ant assemblages in urban ecosystems as previously observed in natural and semi-natural ecosystems. However, the habitat complexity filter does not seem to be linked to ant morphological traits related to body size.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1356
Number of pages19
Publication statusPublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Copyright the Author(s) 2015. Version archived for private and non-commercial use with the permission of the author/s and according to publisher conditions. For further rights please contact the publisher.


  • ant diversity
  • litter
  • understory
  • vegetation
  • habitat structure
  • microclimate
  • soil
  • size-grain hypothesis
  • habitat management
  • management


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