Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
Abstract Taken literally, the aim of biodiversity monitoring is to track changes in the biological integrity of ecosystems. Given the overwhelmingly dominant contribution of invertebrates to biodiversity, no biodiversity monitoring programme can be considered credible if invertebrates are not addressed effectively. Here we review the use of terrestrial invertebrates, with a particular focus on ants, as bioindicators in Australia in the context of monitoring biodiversity in Australia's rangelands. Ant monitoring systems in Australia were initially developed for assessing restoration success following mining, and have since been applied to a wide range of other land-use situations, including grazing impacts in rangelands. The use of ants as bioindicators in Australia is supported by an extensive portfolio of studies of the responses of ant communities to disturbance, as well as by a global model of ant community dynamics based on functional groups in relation to environmental stress and disturbance. Available data from mining studies suggest that ants reflect changes in other invertebrate groups, but this remains largely undocumented in rangelands. The feasibility of using ants as indicators in land management remains a key issue, given the large numbers of taxonomically challenging specimens in samples, and a lack of invertebrate expertise within most land-management agencies. However, recent work has shown that major efficiencies can be achieved by simplifying the ant sorting process, and such efficiencies can actually enhance rather than compromise indicator performance.
Type of Medium: