Date of Award

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Biology

First Advisor

Nicholas J. Gotelli

Abstract

The distribution of species in space is determined by the species dispersal capacity, adaptation to environmental conditions, and response to predators and competitors. To determine the importance of dispersal limitation, environmental filtering, and species interactions on the distribution of species in the Brazilian Amazonian forest, I sampled termites in a large area of Brazil. I investigated patterns in species occurrence that could indicate competition and predation structuring termite communities, and analyzed the association of termite abundance and species richness with the density of ant predators. The spatial distribution of termites, and their association with climatic and edaphic conditions were also used to infer about the effects of dispersal limitation and environmental filtering. A total of 271 termite species and 4,389 colonies was found in the 148 transects sampled. Predator density was the strongest predictor of termite abundance and species richness at small spatial scales, but the turnover in termite species composition was mostly associated with measures of soil texture. At broad spatial scales, soil chemistry, climate, and isolation by distance were associated with termite abundance, species richness, and species composition. These results suggest that both species interactions, their association with the environment, and their dispersal capacity determine their distribution. Nevertheless, dispersal limitation seem to be stronger over large areas, whereas environmental filtering can act both at small and large geographic scales.

Language

en

Number of Pages

198 p.