Date of Award
Honors College Thesis
Frank R. Moore, Ph.D.
Ecologists once focused their research on “pristine” habitats that were considered untouched by human activity. As urbanization rapidly increases, the concept of pristine habitats becomes obsolete. Urban habitats must be studied in order to understand the ecology of our increasingly developed society. Rapid urbanization greatly affects coastal habitats. Popular real estate, strip malls, casinos, and resorts all fragment urban landscapes. Much of the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico is a fragmented urban landscape caused by rapid development. That same coastal landscape is ecologically important and includes habitats important to many different organisms, among them intercontinental migratory songbirds that stop along the coast to rest and to meet the energetic demands before and after the long flight over the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to access to appropriate landing sites, migratory songbirds depend on local arthropod populations to meet the energetic demands of migratory journey. The interaction of anthropogenic factors linked to urbanization and local arthropod communities is important to understand because of the roles arthropods play in functioning ecosystems, such as nutrient cycling, pollination, and food webs. Arthropod communities in an urbanized landscape are not well studied or understood.
Coastal Mississippi provides a setting within which to study arthropod communities in a fragmented urban landscape. I studied arthropod diversity and densities on the Mississippi Gulf Coast at sites that varied in size of wooded habitat: 2 small sites of approximately 1 hectare of wooded habitat and 2 large sites of approximately 160 hectares of wooded habitat. It is unknown whether arthropod communities thrive best in large or small wooded fragments within an urban landscape. I hypothesized that arthropod density would vary with size of habitat, and I predicted that large wooded areas would support a higher density of arthropods than small wooded areas. I also hypothesized that arthropod diversity would vary with size of habitat, and I predicted that the arthropod community confined to a smaller space would be more diverse than an arthropod community associated with a larger space.
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Williams, Anna E., "Arthropod density in a fragmented urban landscape along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico" (2013). Honors Theses. 174.