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Leaf-cutting ants negatively impact the regeneration of the Caatinga dry forest across abandoned pastures

Citation

Mendes Knoechelmann, Clarissa et al. (2020), Leaf-cutting ants negatively impact the regeneration of the Caatinga dry forest across abandoned pastures, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.2bvq83bmd

Abstract

The mechanisms affecting forest regeneration in human-modified landscapes are attracting increasing attention as tropical forests have been recognized as key habitats for biodiversity conservation, provision of ecosystem services and human well-being. Here we investigate the effect of the leaf-cutting ants (LCA) Atta opaciceps on regenerating plant assemblages in Caatinga dry forest. Our study encompassed 15 Atta opaciceps colonies located in landscape patches with a gradient of forest cover from 8.7% to 87.8%, where we monitored regenerating individuals (seedlings and saplings of woody and herbaceous plants) in different habitats (nests, foraging areas and control areas) over one year. We recorded 2977 regenerating plant individuals, distributed among 55 species from 23 families. Herbaceous plants represented 82.1% and 58.2% of the total number of individuals and species, respectively. Species richness of both the whole and herbaceous plant assemblages increased along the forest cover gradient, but without difference between the habitats. Total plant abundance was highest in control areas followed by foraging areas and nests and this pattern held for both woody and herbaceous plants. Although forest cover did not influence the abundance of herbaceous plants and the whole plant assemblage, it positively affects woody plant abundance across control areas. Forest cover and habitat changed species composition of both the entire regenerating and the herbaceous assemblages. These results together indicate that LCA negatively impact regenerating plant assemblages, particularly in those sites with increased forest cover. As LCA proliferate in human modified landscapes, they may prevent plant regeneration of disturbed areas.

Funding

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 2012-2,

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 2017-5

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 2013-0,

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 470480

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 2013-0

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 421323

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 403770

Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico, Award: 490450

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 2015-05

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 008131

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 14

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 2013-01

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 88887

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 12

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 163451

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 0138-2

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 88881

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 0738-2

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 05

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 2018-00

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 030482

Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior, Award: 99999