Emilee W. Gaulke

Lake Forest Biology Senior Project 2011-2012


Title: The response of ant diversity to prairie restoration efforts


Abstract: Many prairie restoration projects have recently been undertaken. These efforts often require great amounts of time and resources. Therefore, it is important to understand how restoration efforts influence species richness and biodiversity. Ants act as important biotic factors in prairie ecosystems providing services such as seed dispersal and soil aeration; however, little is known about how ant communities react to prairie restoration efforts. Therefore, this study aims to address how ant diversity responds to prairie restoration efforts. In order to study this response we employed a space-for-time substitution model to compare mesic tall grass prairies of various restoration ages in McHenry Co. Illinois. We sampled ant communities at sixteen mesic prairie sites ranging in age from one year to twenty-five years old on five year intervals. Four of the sites were remnant prairies and were used as a baseline for comparison with restoration efforts. Based on the intermediate disturbance hypothesis we predicted the youngest (one & five years) and oldest (remnant, 25 & 20 years) prairie sites would have the lowest ant diversity compared to sites of intermediate restoration age. This is based on the idea that the availability of niches will be greatest at the intermediate sites due to mid-levels of disturbance. Preliminary data shows an increase in species richness from one year old sites compared to five year old sites.



Menke, S.B., E. Gaulke, A. Hamel, and N. Vachter. 2015. The effects of restoration age and prescribed burns on grassland ant community structure. Environmental Entomology, DOI: 10.1093/ee/nvv110.