Habitat destruction, biological invasions and their interaction are global drivers of biodiversity loss. The New Caledonian hotspot of biodiversity is threatened by both anthropogenic fires and invasive ants: it is important to understand their impacts on its biota. Because biodiversity spans several levels of organisation (from genes to communities) and relates to different attributes (compositional, structural and functional), this thesis takes a hierarchical approach to address this issue. Ants are of great ecological importance, especially in tropical biomes, and their classification into functional groups provides a global framework for analysing their response to disturbance. My aims were therefore to investigate the impacts of anthropogenic fires and invasive ants, and their interaction, on the native New Caledonian ant fauna at different spatial (global, regional, local) and temporal (short and long term) scales, and at different levels of biological organisation (community, species, genes). The study contributes to an improved knowledge of the New Caledonian ants, by revealing the lack of specialised subterranean species, and by investigating island-scale patterns of ant communities, in relation to habitat and invasion. The mechanisms by which fire impacts native ants, either as a standalone process or in association with invasion could be identified. In particular, I show that fire, by creating macro- and microhabitats favoured by invasive ants, facilitates invasion, which then causes further diversity declines, either in the short- (post burning) or long-term (forest fragmentation). The hierarchical approach used enabled the detection of contrasting traitderived responses at the species and genetic level, in addition to responses measured at the community level. This study highlights the advantage of a holistic approach to investigating biodiversity-related issues.
|Date of Award||Oct 2012|
|Supervisor||Alan Andersen (Supervisor), Chris Austin (Supervisor) & Cédric Gaucherel (Supervisor)|