The impacts of sprawl on biodiversity: The ant fauna of the lower Florida Keys

Elizabeth A. Forys, Craig R. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Sprawling development can affect species composition by increasing the rate of invasion by non-native species, and decreasing the persistence of native species. This paper briefly reviews the scientific literature on the impacts of sprawl on biological diversity, with specific emphasis on the influence of sprawl on non-native species richness. We then explore the relationship between sprawl and biodiversity using a data set of ant species collected from 46 habitat patches located in the increasingly suburbanized Florida Keys, USA. We quantified sprawl as the proximity of roads and amount of development surrounding a habitat patch. Using bait transects, we identified 24 native and 18 non-native species of ants. Neither the overall number of native species nor the number of rare native species were significantly affected by the amount of development or proximity to roads, however, the number of non-native species was significantly correlated with the amount of development. Surprisingly, the number of native species and rare native species was significantly positively correlated with the number of non-native species. Areas that supported many species of native ants also supported a diverse non-native ant fauna, and the species distribution was highly nested. Currently, the native ant fauna of the Florida Keys does not appear to be dramatically influenced by sprawl, however, if development increases, the number of non-native ants may increase, and many of these species have been documented as decreasing native ant diversity. If development plateaus, there is evidence that the native ant fauna could persist and could decrease non-native species richness through competition or predation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number25
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2005


  • Extinctions
  • Exurban development
  • Florida
  • Invasions
  • Nestedness
  • Sprawl

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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