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Title: Grassland harvesting alters ant community trophic structure: An isotopic study in tallgrass prairies

Abstract

Disturbances have long been recognized as important forces for structuring natural communities but their effects on trophic structure are not well understood, particularly in terrestrial systems. This is in part because quantifying trophic linkages is a challenge, especially for small organisms with cryptic feeding behaviors such as insects, and often relies on conducting labor-intensive feeding trials or extensive observations in the field. In this study, we used stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen to examine how disturbance (annual biomass harvesting) in tallgrass prairies affected the trophic position, trophic range, and niche space of ants, a widespread grassland consumer. We hypothesized that biomass harvest would remove important food and nesting resources of insects thus affecting ant feeding relationships and trophic structure. We found shifts in the feeding relationships inferred by isotopic signatures with harvest. In particular, these shifts suggest that ants within harvest sites utilized resources at lower trophic levels (possibly plant-based resources or herbivores), expanded trophic breadth, and occupied different niche spaces. Shifts in resource use following harvest could be due to harvest-mediated changes in both the plant and arthropod communities that might affect the strength of competition or alter plant nitrogen availability. Because shifts in resource use alter themore » flow of nutrients across the food web, disturbance effects on ants could have ecosystem-level consequences through nutrient cycling.« less

Authors:
ORCiD logo [1];  [1];  [1]
  1. Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (United States)
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Univ. of Wisconsin, Madison, WI (United States); Battelle Memorial Institute, Columbus, OH (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Science (SC)
OSTI Identifier:
1609254
Grant/Contract Number:  
FC02-07ER64494; AC05-76RL01830
Resource Type:
Accepted Manuscript
Journal Name:
Ecology and Evolution
Additional Journal Information:
Journal Volume: 9; Journal Issue: 17; Journal ID: ISSN 2045-7758
Publisher:
Wiley
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
54 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES; Environmental Sciences & Ecology; Evolutionary Biology

Citation Formats

Kim, Tania, Bartel, Savannah, and Gratton, Claudio. Grassland harvesting alters ant community trophic structure: An isotopic study in tallgrass prairies. United States: N. p., 2019. Web. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5523.
Kim, Tania, Bartel, Savannah, & Gratton, Claudio. Grassland harvesting alters ant community trophic structure: An isotopic study in tallgrass prairies. United States. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5523
Kim, Tania, Bartel, Savannah, and Gratton, Claudio. Tue . "Grassland harvesting alters ant community trophic structure: An isotopic study in tallgrass prairies". United States. https://doi.org/10.1002/ece3.5523. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/1609254.
@article{osti_1609254,
title = {Grassland harvesting alters ant community trophic structure: An isotopic study in tallgrass prairies},
author = {Kim, Tania and Bartel, Savannah and Gratton, Claudio},
abstractNote = {Disturbances have long been recognized as important forces for structuring natural communities but their effects on trophic structure are not well understood, particularly in terrestrial systems. This is in part because quantifying trophic linkages is a challenge, especially for small organisms with cryptic feeding behaviors such as insects, and often relies on conducting labor-intensive feeding trials or extensive observations in the field. In this study, we used stable isotopes of carbon and nitrogen to examine how disturbance (annual biomass harvesting) in tallgrass prairies affected the trophic position, trophic range, and niche space of ants, a widespread grassland consumer. We hypothesized that biomass harvest would remove important food and nesting resources of insects thus affecting ant feeding relationships and trophic structure. We found shifts in the feeding relationships inferred by isotopic signatures with harvest. In particular, these shifts suggest that ants within harvest sites utilized resources at lower trophic levels (possibly plant-based resources or herbivores), expanded trophic breadth, and occupied different niche spaces. Shifts in resource use following harvest could be due to harvest-mediated changes in both the plant and arthropod communities that might affect the strength of competition or alter plant nitrogen availability. Because shifts in resource use alter the flow of nutrients across the food web, disturbance effects on ants could have ecosystem-level consequences through nutrient cycling.},
doi = {10.1002/ece3.5523},
journal = {Ecology and Evolution},
number = 17,
volume = 9,
place = {United States},
year = {2019},
month = {8}
}

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