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Report Highlights the Role of Biodiversity of Urban Scavengers

Cities are full of ants, mice, rats, and other animals that scavenge on the trash of human beings. A new report from North Carolina State University analyzes how biodiversity influences the productivity of these creatures.
December 7, 2014, 1pm PST | Maayan Dembo | @DJ_Mayjahn
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A new study by Elsa Youngsteadt and colleagues at the North Carolina State University published in Global Change Biology analyzes the role of biodiversity in ant species scavenging habits. In particular, the team asked, how much do ants on Broadway and West, mostly a variety known as pavement ant (Tetramorium Species 5), scarf down compared to the much more diverse ants residing in Central Park and 13 other parks in Manhattan?

As Nathan Collis writes on Pacific Standard, by littering in very controlled settings, the team found that ants, insects, and other animals actually ate more waste in the low-diversity median strips than in the parks. The scientists expected, "that the more diverse arthropod assemblages in parks should consume more food waste. Although we confirmed that park sites supported more ant species and more hexapod families than did median sites, park arthropods ate 2-3 times less food than those in medians," as the report stated.

Overall, the scientists research showed "the importance of species identity and habitat characteristics, rather than diversity, as predictors of food removal," an important lesson for municipalities looking to use more natural decomposters in their food waste systems.

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Published on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 in Pacific Standard
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