Human disturbance promotes herbivory by leaf-cutting ants in the Caatinga dry forest

Felipe F.S. Siqueira, José Domingos Ribeiro-Neto, Marcelo Tabarelli, Alan N. Andersen, Rainer Wirth, Inara R. Leal

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    Anthropogenic disturbances are known to modify plant–animal interactions such as those involving the leaf-cutting ants, the most voracious and proliferating herbivore across human-modified landscapes in the Neotropics. Here, we evaluate the effect of chronic anthropogenic disturbance (e.g., firewood collection, livestock grazing) and vegetation seasonality on foraging area, foliage availability in the foraging area, leaf consumption and herbivory rate of the leaf-cutting ant Atta opaciceps in the semiarid Caatinga, a mosaic of dry forest and scrub vegetation in northeast Brazil. Contrary to our initial expectation, the foraging area was not affected by either disturbance intensity or the interaction between season and disturbance intensity. However, leaf consumption and herbivory rate were higher in more disturbed areas. We also found a strong effect of seasonality, with higher leaf consumption and herbivory rate in the dry season. Our results suggest that the foraging ecology of leaf-cutting ants is modulated by human disturbance and seasonality as these two drivers affect the spectrum and the amount of resources available for these ants in the Caatinga. Despite the low productivity of Caatinga vegetation, the annual rates of biomass consumption by A. opaciceps are similar to those reported from other leaf-cutting ants in rain forests and savannas. This is made possible by maintaining high foraging activity even in the peak of the dry season and taking benefit from any resource available, including low-quality items. Such compensation highlights the adaptive capacity of LCA to persist or even proliferate in human-modified landscapes from dry to rain forests.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)779-788
    Number of pages10
    JournalBiotropica
    Volume50
    Issue number5
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2 Sep 2018

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    caatinga
    leaf-cutting ants
    dry forest
    dry forests
    herbivory
    ant
    herbivores
    foraging
    disturbance
    seasonality
    vegetation
    rain forests
    anthropogenic activities
    dry season
    Atta
    leaves
    fuelwood
    shrublands
    scrub
    savannas

    Cite this

    Siqueira, F. F. S., Ribeiro-Neto, J. D., Tabarelli, M., Andersen, A. N., Wirth, R., & Leal, I. R. (2018). Human disturbance promotes herbivory by leaf-cutting ants in the Caatinga dry forest. Biotropica, 50(5), 779-788. https://doi.org/10.1111/btp.12599
    Siqueira, Felipe F.S. ; Ribeiro-Neto, José Domingos ; Tabarelli, Marcelo ; Andersen, Alan N. ; Wirth, Rainer ; Leal, Inara R. / Human disturbance promotes herbivory by leaf-cutting ants in the Caatinga dry forest. In: Biotropica. 2018 ; Vol. 50, No. 5. pp. 779-788.
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    title = "Human disturbance promotes herbivory by leaf-cutting ants in the Caatinga dry forest",
    abstract = "Anthropogenic disturbances are known to modify plant–animal interactions such as those involving the leaf-cutting ants, the most voracious and proliferating herbivore across human-modified landscapes in the Neotropics. Here, we evaluate the effect of chronic anthropogenic disturbance (e.g., firewood collection, livestock grazing) and vegetation seasonality on foraging area, foliage availability in the foraging area, leaf consumption and herbivory rate of the leaf-cutting ant Atta opaciceps in the semiarid Caatinga, a mosaic of dry forest and scrub vegetation in northeast Brazil. Contrary to our initial expectation, the foraging area was not affected by either disturbance intensity or the interaction between season and disturbance intensity. However, leaf consumption and herbivory rate were higher in more disturbed areas. We also found a strong effect of seasonality, with higher leaf consumption and herbivory rate in the dry season. Our results suggest that the foraging ecology of leaf-cutting ants is modulated by human disturbance and seasonality as these two drivers affect the spectrum and the amount of resources available for these ants in the Caatinga. Despite the low productivity of Caatinga vegetation, the annual rates of biomass consumption by A. opaciceps are similar to those reported from other leaf-cutting ants in rain forests and savannas. This is made possible by maintaining high foraging activity even in the peak of the dry season and taking benefit from any resource available, including low-quality items. Such compensation highlights the adaptive capacity of LCA to persist or even proliferate in human-modified landscapes from dry to rain forests.",
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    Siqueira, FFS, Ribeiro-Neto, JD, Tabarelli, M, Andersen, AN, Wirth, R & Leal, IR 2018, 'Human disturbance promotes herbivory by leaf-cutting ants in the Caatinga dry forest', Biotropica, vol. 50, no. 5, pp. 779-788. https://doi.org/10.1111/btp.12599

    Human disturbance promotes herbivory by leaf-cutting ants in the Caatinga dry forest. / Siqueira, Felipe F.S.; Ribeiro-Neto, José Domingos; Tabarelli, Marcelo; Andersen, Alan N.; Wirth, Rainer; Leal, Inara R.

    In: Biotropica, Vol. 50, No. 5, 02.09.2018, p. 779-788.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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    AU - Leal, Inara R.

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    AB - Anthropogenic disturbances are known to modify plant–animal interactions such as those involving the leaf-cutting ants, the most voracious and proliferating herbivore across human-modified landscapes in the Neotropics. Here, we evaluate the effect of chronic anthropogenic disturbance (e.g., firewood collection, livestock grazing) and vegetation seasonality on foraging area, foliage availability in the foraging area, leaf consumption and herbivory rate of the leaf-cutting ant Atta opaciceps in the semiarid Caatinga, a mosaic of dry forest and scrub vegetation in northeast Brazil. Contrary to our initial expectation, the foraging area was not affected by either disturbance intensity or the interaction between season and disturbance intensity. However, leaf consumption and herbivory rate were higher in more disturbed areas. We also found a strong effect of seasonality, with higher leaf consumption and herbivory rate in the dry season. Our results suggest that the foraging ecology of leaf-cutting ants is modulated by human disturbance and seasonality as these two drivers affect the spectrum and the amount of resources available for these ants in the Caatinga. Despite the low productivity of Caatinga vegetation, the annual rates of biomass consumption by A. opaciceps are similar to those reported from other leaf-cutting ants in rain forests and savannas. This is made possible by maintaining high foraging activity even in the peak of the dry season and taking benefit from any resource available, including low-quality items. Such compensation highlights the adaptive capacity of LCA to persist or even proliferate in human-modified landscapes from dry to rain forests.

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    KW - seasonally dry tropical forests

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    Siqueira FFS, Ribeiro-Neto JD, Tabarelli M, Andersen AN, Wirth R, Leal IR. Human disturbance promotes herbivory by leaf-cutting ants in the Caatinga dry forest. Biotropica. 2018 Sep 2;50(5):779-788. https://doi.org/10.1111/btp.12599