The effects of two abundant ant species on soil nutrients and seedling recruitment in Brazilian Atlantic Forest
Almeida, Fábio Souto
Rev. Bras. entomol.
DATA DE PUBLICAÇÃO
ABSTRACT Ants can influence soil fertility and the spatial distribution of seeds, with possible effects on seedling recruitment. The ant species Pachycondyla striata Fr. Smith, 1858 and Odontomachus chelifer (Latreille, 1802) co-occur in many forest areas in the Neotropics. We assessed soil fertility and seed bank structure in soil samples close and distant (control) from ant nests in forest fragments. We also assessed the richness and abundance of seedlings on nests and control sites. In soil samples from ant nests, the concentration of phosphorus and potassium were respectively 55.6% and 36% higher than in control sites. Aluminium was 11-15% lower in soil samples from ant nests. In the greenhouse, soils from ant nests had higher plant abundance and species richness, but the same species composition in comparison with control sites. Although more plants emerged from soil samples of O. chelifer nests, in the field, the density and richness of seedlings were similar for the two ant species studied. Seedlings in the nest sites were, on average, 1.8 times more abundant and 1.6 times richer in species than in control sites. Our results showed that ant species can play a key role in seedling recruitment in forest fragments, where other animals with equivalent and positive effects, such as mammals, are missing.
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