Selection of proper sampling methods for measuring a community of interest is essential whether the study goals are to conduct a species inventory, environmental monitoring, or a manipulative experiment. Insect diversity studies often employ multiple collection methods at the expense of researcher time and funding. Ants (Formicidae) are widely used in environmental monitoring owing to their sensitivity to ecosystem changes. When sampling ant communities, two passive techniques are recommended in combination: pitfall traps and Winkler litter extraction. These recommendations are often based on studies from highly diverse tropical regions or when a species inventory is the goal. Studies in temperate regions often focus on measuring consistent community response along gradients of disturbance or among management regimes; therefore, multiple sampling methods may be unnecessary. We compared the effectiveness of pitfalls and Winkler litter extraction in an eastern temperate forest for measuring ant species richness, composition, and occurrence of ant functional groups in response to experimental manipulations of two key forest ecosystem drivers, white-tailed deer and an invasive shrub (Amur honeysuckle). We found no significant effect of sampling method on the outcome of the ecological experiment; however, we found differences between the two sampling methods in the resulting ant species richness and functional group occurrence. Litter samples approximated the overall combined species richness and composition, but pitfalls were better at sampling large-bodied (Camponotus) species. We conclude that employing both methods is essential only for species inventories or monitoring ants in the Cold-climate Specialists functional group.
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Vol. 46 • No. 3