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Scientific Research in the Caledonian Forest
The Use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to Predict Potential Suitable Habitat for Wood Ant Colonies in Glen Affric, Scotland

Simon Dures with a wood ant nest

Simon Dures with a wood ant nest in Glen Affric during his field work in Spring 2004.

In the spring of 2004, Simon Dures, a student in Ecological Science at Edinburgh University, carried out a research project in Glen Affric, using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) software, combined with field observations, to predict where wood ant colonies are most likely to be found. Here is Simon's summary of his research, from his thesis document.


This investigation aims to identify the locations and species of wood ant colonies within Glen Affric as well as a suite of parameters, both biotic and abiotic, which can be used to define the expected ant locations within the glen. Using an analysis of normal distributions and analysis of variance, six are identified: Aspect; Hill-shading; Slope; Elevation; diameter at breast height of birch (Betula spp.) and Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris); and Proximity to birch.

Two methods of data analysis, binomial logistic regression and normal distribution aggregation, are used to create Geographic Information Software (GIS) models to predict areas within the glen suitable for wood ants. An attempt is made, based on the distribution of birch, to explain possible reasons why colonies may be lacking from areas in which they are expected to be resident. Historical use of the glen, trophic cascades and symbiotic relationships are discussed. Suggestions of how management of the glen may improve the chances of unassisted population spread of the native wood ant population using deer exclosures are made. Finally the considerations needed for a reintroduction scheme using nest relocation are identified, and maps guiding this reintroduction generated.

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Published: 2 July 2004
Last updated: 25 August 2010

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