Evaluating the conservation value of sacred forests for ant taxonomic, functional and phylogenetic diversity in highly degraded landscapes

Sabine S. NOOTEN*, Roger H. LEE, Benoit GUÉNARD

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Land use changes and accelerating deforestation rates impact biodiversity on a global scale. While it is well established that the loss of primary forests is devastating, considerably less is understood about the conservation value of sacred forests (e.g. Feng shui woods in China) as local biodiversity reservoirs in human influenced landscapes. When these forests were assessed, the focus was generally on floral diversity, while faunal aspects were neglected. Here we address this knowledge gap by evaluating several dimensions of faunal biodiversity in Hong Kong Feng shui woods. We compare taxonomic, phylogenetic and functional elements of the leaf litter dwelling ant fauna collected over five years among Feng shui woods and two woody habitats corresponding to two distinct successional stages. Ant assemblages in Feng shui woods presented higher species richness that were more resilient to invasions by tramp species, and encompassed specialist species with a distinct set of traits. Phylogenetic diversity was similar in Feng shui and successional woods, while functional diversity was clustered in early successional habitats. The scarcity of tramp species and presence of specialists in Feng shui woods despite their close proximity to human settlements highlights their conservation value for native species in highly degraded landscapes. Our results provide much needed insight on the faunal biodiversity of Feng shui woods. We highlight the conservation value and urgent need for a better protection of these widely overlooked sacred forests in highly disturbed landscapes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109286
Number of pages10
JournalBiological Conservation
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

We wish to thank Kin Ho Chan, Roy Shun Chi Cheung and Brian Worthington for specimen collection, processing, identification and data basing. This work was supported from an Early Career Scheme Grant from the Research Grants Council ( ECS-27106417 ) of the Hong Kong Government.


  • Community
  • Conservation
  • Feng shui wood
  • Formicidae
  • Habitat
  • Remnant forest
  • Sub-tropical
  • Succession


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