Beta diversity patterns of ants in Borneo



Project description

Beta diversity patterns of ants in Borneo

The interior mountain ranges of Central Borneo represent the only remaining large, contiguous and undisturbed tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia outside of western New Guinea. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) led a conservation initiative for this remaining large block of Southeast Asian rainforest - a total of 220,000 km² of equatorial rainforest - under the title ‘Heart of Borneo’ to protect this unique ecosystem before it is lost for ever.
Any conservation project of this scale needs to prioritize available funds and efforts. It will be fundamental for this initiative to define core conservation areas and areas that can be used economically in a sustainable way.
Conservation Biology traditionally is oriented towards vertebrates such as birds and large mammals because they are attractive to the public and good distribution data often exist. However, the biodiversity of tropical rainforests is defined by invertebrates - especially insects - and many functional processes in this ecosystem are driven by them.
My research focuses on ants that are a very prominent group in these forests, present in all strata from the leaf litter to the high canopy, where they feed on other invertebrates or tap into the honey dew of phytophagous insects. As predators they have a structuring influence on the invertebrate community and they also perturbate soil and are therefore recognised ecosystem engineers.
Although local ant community diversity in Borneo was assessed it is difficult to know if species are endemic or are wide spread in SE Asia since distribution records for ant species are rare. I therefore aim to contribute towards the understanding of beta diversity of ants in Borneo and especially to understand the proportion of endemic species. Hopefully this contribution of Biology will the provide a helpful tool for implementations of effective management of the proposed conservation area. This approach could be seen as a test case for other areas in the world and may also help to establish ants as a group for red list assessments according to IUCN methods.
More information


At this stage of the project I am looking into published records for selected ant genera and collect data with friends and colleagues of ANeT.

In January 2011 I had the chance to join Martin Holland and his team at the Sungai Mahot in Central Kalimantan. Their Heart of Borneo Project tries to create awareness for the area and the planned conservation network that aims to protect the biodiversity of Borneo.

I was able to assess the ant diversity around Camp Foyle and will include this data in estimates for beta diversity on the island. This is part of a close collaboration with Dr. Jan Beck from the University of Basel whose research is related to moth diversity on Borneo. We believe that insect diversity could be established as a tool for conservation planning and management.

Bild von Carsten und Jan

In Working in the beautiful forest at Sungai Mahot together with Jan Beck (University Basel). 


Related publications 

  • Clinton N. Jenkins, Nathan J. Sanders, Alan N. Andersen, Xavier Arnan, Carsten A. Brühl, Xim Cerda, Aaron M. Ellison, Brian L. Fisher, Matthew C. Fitzpatrick, Nicholas J. Gotelli, Aaron D. Gove, Benoit Guénard, John E. Lattke, Jean-Philippe Lessard, Terrence P. McGlynn, Sean B Menke, Catherine L. Parr, Stacy M. Philpott , Heraldo L. Vasconcelos, Michael D. Weiser & Robert R. Dunn (2011) Global diversity in light of climate change: the case of ants. Diversity and Distributions. 1-11. DOI: 10.1111/j.1472-4642.2011.00770.x.
  • William F. Laurance, D. Carolina Useche, Luke P. Shoo, Sebastian K. Herzog, Michael Kessler, Federico Escobar, Gunnar Brehm, Jan C. Axmacher, I. Ching Chen, Lucrecia Arellano Gámez, Peter Hietz, Konrad Fiedler, Tomasz Pyrcz, Jan Wolf, Christopher L. Merkord, Catherine Cardelus, Andrew R. Marshall, Claudine Ah-Peng, Gregory H. Aplet, M. del Coro Arizmendi, William J. Baker, John Barone, Carsten A. Brühl, Rainer W. Bussmann, Daniele Cicuzza, Gerald Eilu, Mario E. Favila, Andreas Hempz, Claudia Hempz, Jürgen Homeier, Johanna Hurtado, Jill Jankowski, Gustavo Kattán, Jürgen Kluge, Thorsten Krömer, David C. Lees, Marcus Lehnert, John T. Longino, Jon Lovett, Patrick H. Martin, Bruce D. Patterson, Richard G. Pearson, Kelvin S.-H. Peh, Barbara Richardson, Michael Richardson, Michael Samways, Feyera Senbeta, Thomas B. Smith, Tim Utteridge, James E. Watkins, Rohan Wilson, Stephen E. Williams & Chris D. Thomas (2011) Global warming, elevational ranges and the vulnerability of tropical biota. Biological Conservation 144, 548–557. DOI 10.1016/j.biocon.2010.10.010.
  • Robert R. Dunn, Donat Agosti, Alan N. Andersen, Xavier Arnan, Carsten A. Brühl, Xim Cerda, Aaron M. Ellison, Brian L. Fisher, Matthew C. Fitzpatrick,  Heloise Gibb, Nicholas J. Gotelli, Aaron D. Gove, Benoit Guenard, Milan Janda, Michael E. Kaspari, Edward J. Laurent, Jean-Philippe Lessard, John T. Longino, Jonathan D. Majer, Sean B. Menke, Terrence P. McGlynn, Catherine L. Parr, Stacy M. Philpott, Martin Pfeiffer, Javier Retana, Andrew V. Suarez, Heraldo L. Vasconcelos, Michael D. Weiser, Nathan J. Sanders (2009) Climatic Drivers of Hemispheric Asymmetry in Global Patterns of Ant Species Richness. Ecology Letters 12, 324-333.
  • Robert R. Dunn, Nathan J. Sanders, Matthew C. Fitzpatrick, Ed Laurent, Jean-Philippe Lessard, Donat Agosti, Alan Andersen, Carsten A. Brühl, Xim Cerda, Aaron Ellison, Brian Fisher, Heloise Gibb, Nicholas Gotelli, Aaron Gove, Benoit Guenard, Milan Janda, Michael Kaspari, John T. Longino, Jonathan Majer, Terrence P. McGlynn, Sean Menke, Catherine Parr, Stacy Philpott, Martin Pfeiffer, Javier Retana, Andy Suarez & Heraldo Vasconcelos (2007) Global Ant Biodiversity and Biogeography - A New Database and its Possibilities, Myrmecological news, 10, 77-83.
  • Carsten A. Brühl, Maryati Mohamed & K. Eduard Linsenmair (1999) Altitudinal distribution of leaf litter ants along a transect in primary forests on Mount Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 15, 265-277.
  • Carsten A. Brühl, Gunik Gunsalam & K. Eduard Linsenmair (1998) Stratification of ants (Hymenoptera, Formicidae) in a primary rain forest in Sabah, Borneo. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 14, 285-297.

Impact of landuse change – oilpalm


I am also working on the effects of land use changes on ant communities in SE Asia and am especially interested in the impact of oil palm plantations on biodiversity and the role of invasive ant species.

Related publications

  • William F. Laurance, D. Carolina Useche, Julio Rendeiro, Margareta Kalka, CoreyJ. A. Bradshaw, Sean P. Sloan … Carsten A. Brühl …. (215 Co-authors) (2012) Averting biodiversity collapse in tropical forest protected areas. Nature 489, 290-294. DOI:10.1038/nature11318.
  • Carsten A. Brühl & Thomas Eltz (2010) Fuelling the crisis: Species loss of ground-dwelling forest ants in oil palm plantations in Sabah, Malaysia (Borneo). Biodiversity & Conservation. 19:519–529. DOI 10.1007/s10531-009-9596-4.
  • Finn Danielsen, Hendrien Beukema, Neil D. Burgess, Faizal Parish, Carsten A. Brühl, Paul F. Donald, Daniel Murdiyarso, Ben Phalan, Lucas Reijnders, Matthew J. Struebig & Emily B. Fitzherbert (2009) Biofuel Plantations on Forested Lands: Double Jeopardy for Biodiversity and Climate. Conservation Biology 23 (2), 348-358.
  • Emily B. Fitzherbert, Matthew J. Struebig, Alexandra Morel, Finn Danielsen, Carsten A. Brühl, Paul F. Donald & Ben Phalan (2008). How will oil palm expansion affect biodiversity? Trends in Ecology and Evolution. 23, 538-545.
  • Martin Pfeiffer& Carsten Brühl 2006 Low species richness and high impact of invasive species in arboreal ant communities in oil palm plantations – a threat to natural biodiversity in Malaysia. Poster presentation. Biodiversity loss on tropical islands. Brunei. (PDF)
  • Carsten Brühl 2007 No ark for ants: species loss of ground-dwelling forest ants in oil palm plantations in Sabah, Malaysia (Borneo). Poster presentation. ATBC conference. Kuching Sarawak. (PDF)
  • Tobias O. Bickel, Carsten A. Brühl, Jürgen R. Gadau, Bert Hölldobler & K. Eduard Linsenmair (2006) Influence of habitat fragmentation on the genetic variability in leaf litter ant populations in tropical rainforests of Sabah, Borneo. Biodiversity and Conservation, 15, 157-175.
  • Carsten A. Brühl, Thomas Eltz & K. Eduard Linsenmair (2003) Size does matter -Fragmentation of tropical rain forests in Sabah Malaysia and the effects on the leaf litter ant community. Biodiversity and Conservation, 12: 1371-1389.
  • Carsten A. Brühl (2001) Leaf litter ant communities in tropical lowland rain forests in Sabah, Malaysia: effects of forest disturbance and fragmentation. Ph. D. thesis, Julius-Maximilians-Universität, Würzburg. 160 pp.