Confirmation of Candidature presentation: Biogeographically contingent impacts of disturbance

Confirmation of Candidature presentation: Biogeographically contingent impacts of disturbance

Tue, 12/11/2013 - 14:00


About the Presenter

Gabriela Arcoverde

Gabriela Arcoverde is a RIEL PhD student based at CSIRO in Darwin in the Northern Territory. She is investigating how both historical and ecological biogeography can influence the responses of savanna ant communities to grazing by livestock in Australia and Brazil.

Gabriela is currently expanding her partnership network with labs in the Federal University of Uberlandia (UFU, Brazil) and Federal University of Vicosa (UFV, Brazil) to develop new study sites in Brazil. She is being supervised by Professor Samantha Setterfield from Charles Darwin University and Alan Andersen from CSIRO Ecosystem Sciences in Darwin.


Venue

Charles Darwin University
Ellengowan Drive
Building Yellow 1.1.39
Casuarina NT 0810
Australia

Biogeographically contingent impacts of disturbance: Resilience of savanna ant communities in relation to grazing in Australia and Brazil

Ants are the most species-rich and ecological diverse group of all social insects and provide a wide range of important ecosystem services such as soil modification, predation, protection from plant pests, and seed dispersal. Their importance in the ecosystem, as well as being easy to sample and having well-understood community dynamics, make ants very useful bio-indicators in land management.

Ant responses to disturbance are driven primarily by disturbance-induced changes in habitat suitability. The impact of disturbance on habitat suitability will differ strongly between habitats; in particular, disturbance will have a greater impact on vegetation structure in closed habitats (by opening them up) than in habitats that are already open. Responses of ant communities to disturbance will also be strongly influenced by their functional composition, given that responses differ markedly between functional groups.

Globally, grazing is one of the most widespread forms of disturbance, and it is especially important in tropical savannas, which hold much of the world’s livestock. High levels of grazing can markedly change vegetation structure, plant species composition, ecosystem structure and function, and it also can alter the abundance and composition of fauna through changes to habitat suitability.

The aim of this thesis is to investigate how both historical and ecological biogeography can influence the responses of savanna ant communities to grazing by livestock. Responses to disturbance might be expected to vary along environmental gradients due to variation in habitat structure and the functional composition of the fauna. Historical biogeography determines the evolutionary origin of the fauna, and this can strongly influence its adaptive capacity in relation to environmental stress and disturbance.

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