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Harvard Forest Symposium Abstract 2010

  • Title: The Consequences of Global Warming Revealed by Ants & Other Arthropods
  • Primary Author: Shannon Pelini (Bowling Green State University)
  • Additional Authors: Mark Boudreau (North Carolina State University at Raleigh); Rob Dunn (North Carolina State University at Raleigh); Aaron Ellison (Harvard University); Nicholas Gotelli (University of Vermont (UVM)); Nathan Sanders (University of Tennessee at Knoxville)
  • Abstract:

    Climate change is altering biodiversity through changes in population and community-level processes. Some species are contracting from the equatorial and extending beyond the poleward edges of their ranges. Variation in the capacity for and rate of this process across species can lead to changes in community composition, ultimately affecting ecosystem function and services. Scientists have been using models to project changes in species’ distributions, but these models often oversimplify processes limiting species’ ranges. Therefore, experimental field manipulations that directly test the effects of warming on populations and communities are needed to better understand the effects of climate change on biodiversity.

    This project examines the effects of warming on ant populations and communities and the ecosystem services that they provide. Ants are a model taxon for studying the effects of climate change because they are numerically dominant in terrestrial communities, span multiple trophic levels and provide important ecosystem services such as seed dispersal and decomposition. This field experiment uses open-top chambers to simulate warming at northern (Harvard Forest, Massachusetts) and southern (Duke Forest, North Carolina) sites to determine the effects of warming on ant populations and communities near the edges of their ranges, where climate change effects will be the most pronounced. Each site has 12 plots containing open-top chambers that manipulate temperature from ambient to 6°C above ambient. The experiment tests the predictions that, under climate change, ant abundance will increase in the north and decrease in the south, ant biodiversity will decline, and ecosystem services provided by ants will be diminished. Over the next three years, we will monitor population growth, species composition, phenology, behavior and genetic composition of ants and other invertebrates occupying these experimental chambers.

  • Research Category: Biodiversity Studies
    Large Experiments and Permanent Plot Studies
    Physiological Ecology, Population Dynamics, and Species Interactions
    Regional Studies

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