Monday, December 07, 2009

Impact of Flooding on the Species Richness, Density and Composition of Amazonian Litter-Nesting Ants

Better late than never:

Impact of Flooding on the Species Richness, Density and Composition of Amazonian Litter-Nesting Ants

Authors: Mertl, Amy L.; Ryder Wilkie, Kari T.; Traniello, James F. A.
Source: Biotropica, Volume 41, Number 5, September 2009 , pp. 633-641(9)

Litter-nesting ants are diverse and abundant in tropical forests, but the factors structuring their communities are poorly known. Here we present results of the first study to examine the impact of natural variation in flooding on a highly diverse (21 genera, 77 species) litter-nesting ant community in a primary Amazonian forest. Fifty-six 3 × 3 m plots experiencing strong variation in flooding and twenty-eight 3 × 3 m terra firme plots were exhaustively searched for litter-nesting ants to determine patterns of density, species richness and species composition. In each plot, flooding, litter depth, twig availability, canopy cover, plant density, percent soil nitrogen, carbon, and phosphorus were measured. Degree of flooding, measured as flood frequency and flood interval, had the strongest impact on ant density in flooded forest. Flooding caused a linear decrease in ant abundance, potentially due to a reduction of suitable nesting sites. However, its influence on species richness varied: low-disturbance habitat had species richness equal to terra firme forest after adjusting for differences in density. The composition of ant genera and species varied among flood categories; some groups known to contain specialist predators were particularly intolerant to flooding. Hypoponera STD10 appeared to be well-adapted to highly flooded habitat. Although flooding did not appear to increase species richness or abundance at the habitat scale, low-flooding habitat contained a mixture of species found in the significantly distinct ant communities of terra firme and highly flooded habitat.

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