Habitat fragmentation, EFN-bearing trees and ant communities: Ecological cascades in Atlantic Forest of northeastern Brazil

Talita Câmara, Walkiria R. Almeida, Marcelo Tabarelli, Alan N. Andersen, Inara R. Leal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Habitat fragmentation has a marked impact on the functional composition of tropical forest tree assemblages, and such change is likely to cascade through other trophic levels. Here, we investigate how habitat fragmentation affects extrafloral nectary (EFN)-bearing plants and ant functional groups known to attend EFNs in a fragmented landscape of the Atlantic Forest. Extrafloral nectary-bearing trees were identified in 50 0.1-ha plots located in forest fragments, edge and interior patches. Ants were surveyed in 30 1-m2 litter samples in each of 17 forest fragments and in forest interior. Extrafloral nectary-bearing plants accounted for 19.9% of individuals and 10.5% of species and included both pioneer and shade-tolerant species similarly rich in the three habitat types. However, shade-tolerant individuals accounted for >80% of EFN-bearing plants in forest interior, compared with 2% in forest edge and 29% in fragments. Forest edge and fragment plots had a third fewer EFN-bearing individuals and species compared with forest interior. This appeared to have important implications for local ant communities as the density of EFN-bearing trees was the most important variable explaining the species richness of arboreal dominant ants. Our results show that plant loser–winner replacements promoted by forest fragmentation can cascade through higher trophic levels, with implications for forest dynamics and biodiversity conservation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)31-39
Number of pages9
JournalAustral Ecology
Volume42
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2017
Externally publishedYes

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