The use of invertebrates to detect small-scale habitat heterogeneity and its application to restoration practices

  • Pik A
  • Dangerfield J
  • Bramble R
 et al. 
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Recent conceptual and technological solutions to biodiversity assessment allow large numbers of invertebrate specimens to be processed rapidly and provide researchers and practitioners with a unique tool for characterizing habitats. One application of these advances is the ability to detect and monitor small-scale habitat heterogeneity and so provide a measure of ecosystem restoration. This case study presents a test of the efficacy of using invertebrates to assess and monitor ecological restoration following bush regeneration. Eight contiguous habitat patches within a suburb of northern Sydney, Australia, were selected to represent areas that had undergone different bush regeneration techniques. A nearby and relatively undisturbed area of bushland was also sampled. A total of 57,806 ground-active invertebrate specimens from 35 different orders were collected in pitfall traps. 1,246 ant (Formicidae) specimens were further sorted into 46 ant morphospecies from 20 genera. Analyses of the three taxonomic data sets, including two different data transformations, demonstrated that: (i) invertebrate communities successfully characterized different sites, providing a high degree of differentiation among sites; (ii) ordinations of the sites allowed visual assessment of the impact of each management technique on the habitat relative to undisturbed habitats; and (iii) characterization of sites could be achieved using abundance classes or binary counts of ant morphospecies, representing potential cost and time savings. The project duration was a total of three person weeks and cost less than US$3,000 (1999 prices) to complete. Measurement of invertebrate assemblages will provide a tool for both rapid assessment of management decisions and a means by which to implement adaptive management and restoration.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Adaptive management and restoration
  • Ants
  • Ecological monitoring and assessment
  • Invertebrate assemblages
  • Rapid biodiversity assessment
  • Taxonomic sufficiency

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