Ant communities: Biogeography, Conservation & Citizen Science

Research output: Book/ReportPh.D. thesisResearch

The distribution and community composition of all species on Earth is determined by a combination of biotic and abiotic factors. While distributions have always shifted due to species interactions and varying climatic conditions, they today face more rapid changes due to humans. Understanding how species are adapting to urbanisation and climate change is of vital importance if we are to stem the current rate of biodiversity decline at global and local scales. Yet so far, ecologicalstudies have been biased towards charismatic species and natural or protected habitats. At the same time, there is an increasing estrangement within the human population towards nature, which may affect how we value and prioritise conservation efforts. Citizen science has been called upon as a potential tool for vast data collection, large-scale monitoring of species distributions and a way to empower and educate people, through reconnecting them with nature. Despite the growing interest in citizen science, most projects are still tailored towards the trained, adult amateur and some fail to generate scientific publications. During my PhD, I led a citizen science project designed for children age 8-11. Participants carried out structured baiting experiments and received personal feedback on their participation. By utilising citizen science combined with my own fieldwork, I study how species interactions and environmental conditions shape ant communities in Denmark and across a latitudinal gradient. Based on the discovery of an exotic species for Denmark, I also evaluate the usefulness of citizenscience as a tool for monitoring introduced species.I find that local processes, rather than any globally identifiable mechanisms, probably govern ant communities. It is possible that high abundance of dominant ant species limits subordinate species richness but trade-offs among species do not appear to shape broad-scale patterns of coexistence among ant species. Across approximately 120 years, Danish ants show exceptional occupancy stability. However, although species richness and abundance appears unaffected by urbanisation, community composition varies between natural and urban environments and some species may be under pressure due to anthropogenic change. Finally, citizen science is a useful tool for the rapid collection of large amounts of data, but may fall short if the purpose is to study rare and elusive species. On the other hand, it is an ideal method for monitoring exotic species due to an increased sampling bias towards habitats impacted by human activity
Original languageEnglish
PublisherDepartment of Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Copenhagen
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 237511846