A new method based on taxonomic sufficiency to simplify studies on Neotropical ant assemblages
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Insects, particularly ants, are good bioindicators of the state of ecosystems. Nevertheless, incorporating them into conservation surveys is expensive due to problems associated with their identification, which is exacerbated by the fact that there are fewer and fewer taxonomists working today. “Taxonomic sufficiency” (TS), which identifies organisms to a level of taxonomic resolution sufficient enough to satisfy the objectives of a study, has never been applied to Neotropical ant communities. We analysed five Neotropical datasets representing ant assemblages collected with different sampling methods in various habitats. We first treated them using two complementary and cumulative TS methods, higher-taxon and “indicator taxa” surrogacies, before testing a new approach called “mixed-level method” that combines the two previous approaches. For the higher-taxon surrogacy, we showed that, above species, genus is the most informative taxonomic level. Then, mixed-level method provided more information on ant assemblages than did the two others, even though the “indicator taxa” surrogacy was based on relevant indicator genera. Although habitat type has no effect on its efficiency, this new method is influenced by the dataset structure and the type of sampling method used to collect data. We have thus developed a new method for analyzing Neotropical ant faunas that enables the taxonomic work linked to the identification of problematic species to be significantly reduced, while conserving most of the information on the ant assemblage. This method should enhance the work of Neotropical entomologists not specialised in taxonomy, particularly those concerned with biological conservation and indication.
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