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Ant community composition and functional traits in newly established grasslands within agricultural landscapes
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  • Victor Scharnhorst,
  • Konrad Fiedler,
  • Thomas Frank,
  • Dietmar Moser,
  • Dominik Rabl,
  • Manuela Brandl,
  • Raja Hussain,
  • Ronnie Walcher,
  • Bea Maas
Victor Scharnhorst
University of Vienna Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research
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Konrad Fiedler
University of Vienna Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research
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Thomas Frank
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
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Dietmar Moser
University of Vienna Department of Botany and Biodiversity Research
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Dominik Rabl
University of Vienna Division of Tropical Ecology and Animal Biodiversity
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Manuela Brandl
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
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Raja Hussain
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
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Ronnie Walcher
University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Vienna
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Bea Maas
University of Vienna Division of Conservation Biology Vegetation and Landscape Ecology
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Abstract

1. Ongoing intensification and fragmentation of European agricultural landscapes dramatically reduce biodiversity and associated functions. To sustain ecosystem services such as ant mediated pest control, the enhancement of perennial non-crop areas holds great potential. 2. To study the potential of newly established grasslands to enhance ant diversity and associated functions, we used hand collection data to investigate differences in ant community composition (a) between cereal crops, old grasslands, and new grassland transects of three years age; (b) depending on ant functional traits; and linked to (c) natural pest control services quantified through predation experiments. 3. Ant species richness did not significantly differ between new and old grasslands, but was significantly higher in grasslands compared to cereal crops. Contrary, ant community composition of new grasslands was more similar to cereal crops and distinct from the species-pool of old grasslands. The functional trait space covered by the ant communities overlapped between old and new grasslands but was extended in the old grasslands. Pest control did not differ significantly between habitat types, and therefore could not be linked to the prevalence of functional traits related to biocontrol services in new grasslands. 4. Our findings show trends of convergence between old and new grasslands, but also indicate that enhancing ant diversity through newly established grasslands takes longer than three years to provide comparable biodiversity and functions. 5. Synthesis and applications Newly established grasslands can increase ant species richness, abundance, and pest control in agroecosystems. However, three years after establishment, new grasslands were still dominated by common agrobiont ant species and lacked habitat specialists present in old grasslands, who require a constant supply of food resources and long colonization times. New grasslands represent a promising measure for enhancing agricultural landscapes but must be preserved in the longer term to sustain biodiversity and associated ecosystem services.

Peer review status:UNDER REVIEW

14 Jul 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
15 Jul 2020Assigned to Editor
15 Jul 2020Submission Checks Completed
17 Jul 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned