Periódicos Brasileiros em Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia

Cerrado ground-dwelling ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) as indicators of edge effects

Roberto F. Brandão, CarlosR. Silva, RogérioM. Feitosa, Rodrigo

Large-scale agricultural production in Brazil preferentially occupies plateaus reclaimed from areas originally covered by Cerrado (savanna). Depending on the region, a percentage of the pristine vegetation coverage must be preserved by law, resulting in the creation of fragmented legal Cerrado reserves. The geometry of these relatively small legal reserves creates new habitat edges and ecotones, whose effects on the invertebrate fauna are poorly understood. This study aimed to assess the effects of abrupt edges resulting from soy production on ground-dwelling ant assemblages in the Brazilian Cerrado. The study sites are located within the Amazon region, in the state of Maranhão, northern Brazil, but were covered by Cerrado on a relatively low plateau, irregularly inter-spaced with gallery forests along streams. We compared species richness and species composition of ground-dwelling ants along eight transects set 0, 50, 100, 150, 200, and 250 m into the sensu stricto Cerrado and 50 and 100 m into the soy field. The collecting periods covered the wet and dry seasons. Effects on ant species richness were non-significant, although composition of the assemblages was significantly affected by edge effects, which were, in part, found to be species specific. We hypothesize that edge effects are probably greater than estimated because of the shape and complexity of reserves. Consideration of edge effects in the Cerrado Biome should enable the design of appropriate reserve sizes and shapes to meet conservation goals.

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