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The Cryptic impacts of invasion: functional homogenization of tropical ant communities by invasive fire ants

Citation

Wong, Mark; Guénard, Benoit; Lewis, Owen (2020), The Cryptic impacts of invasion: functional homogenization of tropical ant communities by invasive fire ants, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.s7h44j13f

Abstract

The diversity and distribution of traits in an ecological community shapes its responses to change and the ecosystem processes it modulates. This ‘functional diversity’, however, is not necessarily a direct outcome of taxonomic diversity. Invasions by exotic insects occur in ecosystems worldwide, but there is limited understanding of how they impact functional diversity. We present the first comprehensive trait-based investigation of the impacts of an ant invasion, and the first incorporating intraspecific polymorphisms in species-level functional diversity. The fire ant Solenopsis invicta is an invasive species with a global distribution. Focusing on invaded and uninvaded plots in tropical grasslands of Hong Kong, we investigated how the presence of S. invicta affects the diversity and distribution of ant species and traits within and across communities, the functional identities of communities, and functionally unique species. Using trait probability density functions, we built trait spaces for 29 species, and scaled up these components to calculate functional diversity at community and landscape levels. We found that invasion had limited effects on species and functional richness but pronounced effects on functional composition. Specifically, invaded communities had fewer functionally-unique individuals, and were characterized by species with narrower heads and bodies and shorter mandibles. Moreover, invaded communities showed substantially higher levels of functional redundancy (+56%) due to a clustering of trait values. Consequently, across the landscape, invaded communities displayed 23% less functional turnover than uninvaded communities despite showing comparable levels of taxonomic turnover – a result confirming theoretical predictions of the effects of high local functional redundancy. In sum, the presence of S. invicta alters the functional properties of multiple local communities selectively, resulting in functional homogenization across the landscape. The disparities between taxonomic and functional impacts of invasion highlight the need to consider how trait diversity across ecological scales shapes biodiversity and its responses to change.

Usage Notes

Attached data files:

  1. "matrix.freq": A species by site matrix. Cells report the frequencies of occurrence for each of the 29 ant species in each of the 61 plots. Species names are presented as abbreviations; refer to Supporting Information of the original publication for full species names. 
  2. "traits.ind": Seven morphological trait measurements for 319 individuals across 29 ant species. All measurements were performed in accordance with the standards specified in the Global Ants Trait Database. Note: "leg.length" is the combined length of the femur and tibia of the hind leg. The column "caste" records whether an individual is a minor worker (w) or a major worker (m). Species names are presented as abbreviations; refer to Supporting Information of the original publication for full species names.