Habitat disturbance modifies dominance, coexistence, and competitive interactions in tropical ant communities

Rafael Achury, Patricia Chacón de Ulloa, Ángela Arcila, Andrew V. Suarez

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. Interspecific competition is a major structuring principle in ecological communities. Despite their prevalence, the outcome of competitive interactions is hard to predict, highly context-dependent, and multiple factors can modulate such interactions. 2. We tested predictions concerning how competitive interactions are modified by anthropogenic habitat disturbance in ground-foraging ant assemblages inhabiting fragmented Inter-Andean tropical dry forests in southwestern Colombia, and investigated ant assemblages recruiting to baits in 10 forest fragments exposed to varying level of human disturbance. 3. Specifically, we evaluated how different components of competitive interactions (patterns of species co-occurrence, resource partitioning, numerical dominance, and interspecific trade-offs between discovery and dominance competition) varied with level of habitat disturbance in a human-dominated ecosystem. 4. Multiple lines of evidence suggest that the role of competitive interactions in structuring ground-foraging ant communities at baits varied with respect to habitat disturbance. As disturbance increased, community structure was more likely to exhibit random co-occurrence patterns, higher levels of monopolization of food resources by dominant ants, and disproportionate dominance of a single species, the little fire ant (Wasmannia auropunctata). At a regional scale, we found evidence for a trade-off between dominance and discovery abilities of the 15 most common species at baits. 5. Together, these results suggest that human disturbance modifies the outcome of competitive interactions in ground-foraging ant assemblages and may promote dominant species that reduce diversity and coexistence in tropical ecosystems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1247-1262
Number of pages16
JournalEcological Entomology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020


  • Discovery-dominance trade-offs
  • Wasmannia auropunctata
  • interspecific competition
  • numerical dominance
  • resource partitioning
  • tropical dry forests

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Insect Science


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