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PLoS One. 2013 Oct 8;8(10):e75843. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075843. eCollection 2013.

Social insects dominate eastern US temperate hardwood forest macroinvertebrate communities in warmer regions.

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1
Biology Department, University of Central Florida, Orlando, Florida, United States of America.

Erratum in

  • PLoS One. 2013;8(10). doi:10.1371/annotation/87285c86-f1df-4f8b-bc08-d64643d351f4.

Abstract

Earthworms, termites, and ants are common macroinvertebrates in terrestrial environments, although for most ecosystems data on their abundance and biomass is sparse. Quantifying their areal abundance is a critical first step in understanding their functional importance. We intensively sampled dead wood, litter, and soil in eastern US temperate hardwood forests at four sites, which span much of the latitudinal range of this ecosystem, to estimate the abundance and biomass m(-2) of individuals in macroinvertebrate communities. Macroinvertebrates, other than ants and termites, differed only slightly among sites in total abundance and biomass and they were similar in ordinal composition. Termites and ants were the most abundant macroinvertebrates in dead wood, and ants were the most abundant in litter and soil. Ant abundance and biomass m(-2) in the southernmost site (Florida) were among the highest values recorded for ants in any ecosystem. Ant and termite biomass and abundance varied greatly across the range, from <1% of the total macroinvertebrate abundance (in the northern sites) to >95% in the southern sites. Our data reveal a pronounced shift to eusocial insect dominance with decreasing latitude in a temperate ecosystem. The extraordinarily high social insect relative abundance outside of the tropics lends support to existing data suggesting that ants, along with termites, are globally the most abundant soil macroinvertebrates, and surpass the majority of other terrestrial animal (vertebrate and invertebrate) groups in biomass m(-2). Our results provide a foundation for improving our understanding of the functional role of social insects in regulating ecosystem processes in temperate forest.

PMID:
24116079
PMCID:
PMC3792987
DOI:
10.1371/journal.pone.0075843
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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