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Rapid ant community re-assembly in a Neotropical forest: recovery dynamics and land-use legacy

Cite this dataset

Hoenle, Philipp et al. (2021). Rapid ant community re-assembly in a Neotropical forest: recovery dynamics and land-use legacy [Dataset]. Dryad.


Regrowing secondary forests dominate tropical regions today, and a mechanistic understanding of their recovery dynamics provides important insights for conservation. In particular, land-use legacy effects on the fauna have rarely been investigated. One of the most ecologically dominant and functionally important animal groups in tropical forests are ants. Here, we investigated the recovery of ant communities in a forest – agricultural habitat mosaic in the Ecuadorian Chocó region. We used a replicated chronosequence of previously used cacao plantations and pastures with 1 – 34 years of regeneration time to study the recovery dynamics of species communities and functional diversity across the two land use legacies. We compared two independent components of responses on these community properties: resistance, which is measured as the proportion of an initial property that remains following the disturbance; and resilience, which is the rate of recovery relative to its loss. We found that compositional and trait structure similarity to old-growth forest communities increased with regeneration age, whereas ant species richness remained always at a high level along the chronosequence. Land-use legacies influenced species composition, with former cacao plantations showing higher resemblance to old-growth forests than former pastures along the chronosequence. While resistance was low for species composition and high for species richness and traits, all community properties had similarly high resilience. In essence, our results show that ant communities of the Chocó recovery rapidly, with former cacao reaching predicted old-growth forest community levels after 21 years and pastures after 29 years. Recovery in this community was faster than reported from other ecosystems and was likely facilitated by the low-intensity farming in agricultural sites and their proximity to old-growth forest remnants. Our study indicates the great recovery potential for this otherwise highly threatened biodiversity hotspot.


This data sets contains the raw data and R-script associated with our research article. It contains ant collection data in a chronosequence in Ecuador, as well as measurements of the ant traits. 

Ants were collected with standardized methods of Winkler (W), handsampling on the ground (HS) and handsampling on tree trunks (T) from 61 plots. The methods were pooled on plot-level and represent occurences (=presence/absence) of ant species. Our files include metadata on the plots (e.g., coordinates), but also a list of the collected ant species and the number of occurences in each habitat type. Detailed descriptions of the sampling protocols, plot selection and statistical analysis are found in the associated paper. 

The ant traits were measured from individuals collected in our study site. A description of trait abbreviations can be found in our R-script.

The R-script is annotated and describes our statistical procedures and used R-packages, and contains also descriptive information on the csv.-files.


German National Academic Foundation

Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, Award: BE 5177/4-1

National Polytechnic School, Award: PII-ICB-02-2017

National Polytechnic School, Award: PII-DB-2019-02