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Physical and land-cover variables influence ant functional groups and species diversity along elevational gradients

Abstract : Of particular importance in shaping species assemblages is the spatial heterogeneity of the environment. The aim of our study was to investigate the influence of spatial heterogeneity and environmental complexity on the distribution of ant functional groups and species diversity along altitudinal gradients in a temperate ecosystem (Pyrenees Mountains). During three summers, we sampled 20 sites distributed across two Pyrenean valleys ranging in altitude from 1,009 to 2,339 m by using pitfall traps and hand collection. The environment around each sampling points was characterized by using both physical and land-cover variables. We then used a self-organizing map algorithm (SOM, neural network) to detect and characterize the relationship between the spatial distribution of ant functional groups, species diversity, and the variables measured. The use of SOM allowed us to reduce the apparent complexity of the environment to five clusters that highlighted two main gradients: an altitudinal gradient and a gradient of environmental closure. The composition of ant functional groups and species diversity changed along both of these gradients and was differently affected by environmental variables. The SOM also allowed us to validate the contours of most ant functional groups by highlighting the response of these groups to the environmental and land-cover variables.
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Abel Bernadou, Régis Céréghino, Hugues Barcet, Maud Combe, Xavier Espadaler, et al.. Physical and land-cover variables influence ant functional groups and species diversity along elevational gradients. Landscape Ecology, Springer Verlag, 2013, 28, pp.1387 - 1400. ⟨hal-02490279⟩

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