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Soil and vegetation features determine the nested pattern of ant–plant networks in a tropical rainforest


Correspondence: Wesley Dáttilo, Instituto de Neuroetología, Universidad Veracruzana—UV, Av. Dr. Luiz Castelazo s/n, Col. Industrial-Animas: 91190, Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. E-mail:


  1. Recently, several studies have focused on structural properties of ant–plant networks. However, little is known about the role of abiotic factors on these networks.
  2. As a result of different abiotic factors that can affect the patterns of ant–plant interactions, it was tested whether soil pH and canopy cover contribute to variation in the nestedness of mutualistic (plants with extrafloral nectar–EFN) and neutral (plants without EFN) ant–plant networks.
  3. It was shown that only mutualistic networks were affected by soil pH. It was suggested that this may occur because the variation in soil pH directly influences the secreted nectar, and as there is a preference for nectar composition by ants, this could change the patterns of interaction in mutualistic networks. As prey availability is possibly the main factor influencing ants' presence on plants without EFN, soil pH should have little or no influence on the patterns of interaction in neutral networks.
  4. On the other hand, nestedness was not affected by canopy cover in mutualistic and neutral networks. In spite of that canopy cover (light availability) is directly related to the amount of nectar secreted, the volume of nectar may not be important for the structure of the networks. However, canopy cover varied little in this study site. This small variation could not be enough to change the nested pattern in mutualistic and neutral networks.
  5. In short, the present results show that the abiotic factors that affect the availability and quality of food resources may have important effects on the structure of trophic interactions in non-symbiotic ant–plant networks.