Fire in the Amazon: Impact of experimental fuel addition on responses of ants and their interactions with myrmecochorous seeds

Lucas N. Paolucci, Maria L.B. Maia, Ricardo R.C. Solar, Ricardo I. Campos, José H. Schoereder, Alan N. Andersen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The widespread clearing of tropical forests causes lower tree cover, drier microclimate, and higher and drier fuel loads of forest edges, increasing the risk of fire occurrence and its intensity. We used a manipulative field experiment to investigate the influence of fire and fuel loads on ant communities and their interactions with myrmecochorous seeds in the southern Amazon, a region currently undergoing extreme land-use intensification. Experimental fires and fuel addition were applied to 40 × 40-m plots in six replicated blocks, and ants were sampled between 15 and 30 days after fires in four strata: subterranean, litter, epigaeic, and arboreal. Fire had extensive negative effects on ant communities. Highly specialized cryptobiotic and predator species of the litter layer and epigaeic specialist predators were among the most sensitive, but we did not find evidence of overall biotic homogenization following fire. Fire reduced rates of location and transport of myrmecochorous seeds, and therefore the effectiveness of a key ecosystem service provided by ants, which we attribute to lower ant abundance and increased thermal stress. Experimental fuel addition had only minor effects on attributes of fire severity, and limited effects on ant responses to fire. Our findings indicate that enhanced fuel loads will not decrease ant diversity and ecosystem services through increased fire severity, at least in wetter years. However, higher fuel loads can still have a significant effect on ants from Amazonian rainforests because they increase the risk of fire occurrence, which has a detrimental impact on ant communities and a key ecosystem service they provide.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)335-346
Number of pages12
JournalOecologia
Volume182
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2016
Externally publishedYes

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