Cities within arid regions make up a significant but understudied subset of the urban ecosystems of the world. To assess the effects of urbanization, fragmentation, and land-use change in an arid city, we sampled the ant assemblages in three habitat types in Tucson, Arizona: irrigated neighborhood parks, urban desert remnants, and preserved desert. We analyzed the abundance, species richness, evenness, as well as the species and functional group composition of ant assemblages. We found no significant differences in species richness or evenness. However, irrigated parks had significantly greater ant abundances. Although some exotic species were present in the urban habitats, they did not have significant effects on ant diversity. Ant assemblages from all three habitat types were distinct from each other in their composition. Irrigated parks included a significantly higher proportion of species typically found in cooler and wetter climates. The differences in abundance and species composition between irrigated parks and the other habitats are likely the effect of irrigation removing water as a limiting factor for colony growth and increasing resource availability, as well as producing a localized cooling effect. Our results show that arid urban ecosystems may include considerable biodiversity, in part thanks to increased landscape heterogeneity resulting from the irrigation of green areas.
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Vol. 48 • No. 4