Date of Award


Degree Type



Biological, Geological and Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Keiper, Joe

Subject Headings

Hymenoptera -- Ohio -- Cleveland, Formicidae, Ohio, Species richness, Community composition, Sampling methods, Inventory, Winkler litter extraction, Pitfall trapping, Edge effects, Functional groups, Nylanderia flavipes, Non-native species, Plethodon cinereus, Diet, Garlic mustard


Urbanization has resulted in massive transformation of natural habitats with profound effects on biodiversity. Addressing the problems associated with anthropogenic deterioration of the environment requires solid understanding of the factors driving these changes. Habitat patch size, edge effects, and the presence of invasive species are among the key features of the urban landscape affecting local communities. My study focused on the effects of habitat edges, the exotic ant Nylanderia flavipes, and the invasive herb garlic mustard on local ant diversity in deciduous forest fragments of northeastern Ohio. In addition, I explored the value of common ant collecting techniques for estimating ant diversity. When compared to pitfall trapping, Winkler litter extraction showed greater species richness and higher abundance of ants and exhibited the advantage of a more complete inventory. Winkler extraction may completely replace pitfall trapping in temperate forests with well-developed litter layer, and inventorying programs may benefit from the inclusion of this technique as a rapid and effective ant-collecting tool. Our study documents predictable edge-associated changes in species richness, community composition and functional groups, occurring in local forest ant assemblages. Edge effects are most pronounced within the first 25m, which may have implications for the conservation of forest-dwelling fauna. At the sites where Nylanderia flavipes occurred, we found a 6-fold increase in ant abundance, with 87 of the ants being N. flavipes. The numerical dominance of this species did not lead to detectable changes in the species richness and abundance of the native ant community, but was responsible for decreased community evenness. This is likely indicative of a recent introduction with populations still being in their latency period. The high local abundance of N. flavipes may give it a competitive advantage and affect native ants through exploitative competition. Plots invaded by garlic mustard showed significant reduc