Spatial patterns observed in ecosystems have traditionally been attributed to exogenous processes. Recently, ecologists have found that endogenous processes also have the potential to create spatial patterns. Yet, relatively few studies have attempted to examine the combined effects of exogenous and endogenous processes on the distribution of organisms across spatial and temporal scales. Here we aim to do this, by investigating whether spatial patterns of under-story tree species at a large spatial scale (18 ha) influences the spatial patterns of ground foraging ant species at a much smaller spatial scale (20 m by 20 m). At the regional scale, exogenous processes (under-story tree community) had a strong effect on the spatial patterns in the ground-foraging ant community. We found significantly more Camponotus noveboracensis, Formica subsericae, and Lasius alienus species in black cherry (Prunis serotine Ehrh.) habitats. In witch-hazel (Hamamelis virginiana L.) habitats, we similarly found significantly more Myrmica americana, Formica fusca, and Formica subsericae. At smaller spatial scales, we observed the emergence of mosaic ant patches changing rapidly in space and time. Our study reveals that spatial patterns are the result of both exogenous and endogenous forces, operating at distinct scales.
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