Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 25, Issue 8, pp 1481–1501 | Cite as

Ants and plants as indicators of biodiversity, ecosystem services, and conservation value in constructed grasslands

  • Valerie E. Peters
  • Kaitlin U. Campbell
  • Garrett Dienno
  • Mayrolin García
  • Emaly Leak
  • Christina Loyke
  • Megan Ogle
  • Bruce Steinly
  • Thomas O. Crist
Original Paper


Grasslands are constructed for soil and wildlife conservation in agricultural landscapes across Europe and North America. Constructed grasslands may mitigate habitat loss for grassland-dependent animals and enhance ecosystem services that are important to agriculture. The responses of animal species richness and abundance to grassland habitat quality are often highly variable, however, and monitoring of multiple taxa is often not feasible. We evaluated whether multiple animal taxa responded to variation in constructed grassland habitats of southwest Ohio, USA, in ways that could be predicted from indicators based on quality assessment indices, Simpson diversity, and the species richness of ants and plants. The quality assessment indices included a widely used Floristic Quality Assessment (FQA) index, and a new Ant Quality Assessment (AntQA) index, both based on habitat specificity and species traits. The ant and plant indicators were used as predictor variables in separate general linear models of four target taxa—bees, beetles, butterflies and birds—with response variables of overall species richness and abundance, and subsets of taxa that included the abundance of ecosystem-service providers and grassland-associated species. Plant Simpson diversity was the best-fitting predictor variable in models of overall bee and beetle abundance, and the abundance of bees classified as ecosystem-service (ES) providers. FQA and plant richness were the best predictors of overall butterfly species richness and abundance. Ant species richness was the best predictor of overall bird species richness and abundance as well as the abundance of ES birds, while the AntQA index was the best predictor for the abundance of grassland bird and butterfly species. Thus, plant Simpson diversity and ant species richness were the most effective indicators for complementary components of grassland animal communities, whereas quality assessment indices were less robust as indicators and require more knowledge on the habitat specificity of individual ant and plant species.


Ants Bees Beetles Butterflies Birds Floristic quality Rapid assessment Simpson diversity 



We thank Sam Stephenson and David Russell for field assistance, Natalie Konig, Aaron Coleman, and Anita Schaefer for lab assistance, Michael Minnick for bee identification, Jason Nelson for assistance with lab, field, and identification, and Alan Cady for mentoring of REU students. Butterfly, plant, and ant components were funded in part through the National Science Foundation REU site Ecology in Human-Dominated Landscapes at Miami University (Grants DBI-0754991 and DBI-1156703). Ant components were additionally funded by grants from the Ohio Biological Survey and Prairie Biotic Research, Inc. We thank many private landowners, MetroParks of Butler County, Talawanda high school, and Miller Coors Brewery for field site permission. Lastly, we thank two anonymous reviewers for thoughtful feedback that improved an earlier version of this manuscript.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 123 kb)
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Supplementary material 2 (DOCX 74 kb)
10531_2016_1120_MOESM3_ESM.docx (60 kb)
Supplementary material 3 (DOCX 60 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Valerie E. Peters
    • 1
    • 2
    • 5
  • Kaitlin U. Campbell
    • 1
  • Garrett Dienno
    • 1
  • Mayrolin García
    • 1
    • 3
  • Emaly Leak
    • 1
    • 4
  • Christina Loyke
    • 1
  • Megan Ogle
    • 2
  • Bruce Steinly
    • 1
  • Thomas O. Crist
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BiologyMiami UniversityOxfordUSA
  2. 2.Institute for the Environment and SustainabilityMiami UniversityOxfordUSA
  3. 3.Department of Entomology and Plant PathologyAuburn UniversityAuburnUSA
  4. 4.Department of Fisheries and WildlifeMichigan State UniversityAnn ArborUSA
  5. 5.Department of Biological SciencesEastern Kentucky UniversityRichmondUSA

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