Ant community structure under Retama sphaerocarpa shrubs in a semi-arid environment

Authors

  • Soledad CARPINTERO,

    1. Department of Botany, Ecology and Vegetal Physiology, University of Córdoba, Campus of Rabanales, Cordoba, Spain
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  • Joaquín REYES-LÓPEZ,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Botany, Ecology and Vegetal Physiology, University of Córdoba, Campus of Rabanales, Cordoba, Spain
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  • Gloria María LUQUE

    1. Department of Populations and Communities Ecology, Laboratory of Ecology, Systematic and Evolution, University of South Paris, Paris, France
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Joaquín Reyes-López, Department of Botany, Ecology and Vegetal Physiology, University of Córdoba, Campus of Rabanales, 114071 Córdoba, Spain. Email: joaquin@uco.es

Abstract

The Tabernas Desert (Spain) is an emblematic area as it constitutes, strictly speaking, the only European desert. Under the canopy of one of the dominant shrub species, Retama sphaerocarpa, there are different microhabitat conditions that encourage the growing of a dense understory of herbs (fertile islands). However, these changes may not be enough to be also reflected in the fauna. Studying ants as bioindicators, we found higher densities of individuals and species richness below the canopy than outside it. However, while the density of individuals increased from outside the canopy to the inner position under the shrubs, species richness increased from the inner to the border position under the canopy and abruptly decreased outside it. This is because the inner positions were usually monopolized by dominant ants with populous nests that feed on aphid honeydew, such as Monomorium subopacum or Tapinoma nigerrimum. Granivorous species (genus Messor) were usually found in intermediate positions under the canopy, taking advantage of the better microclimatic conditions but close to the grass for feeding. Among the most abundant species, the only one found mainly outside the influence of the retama shrubs was the thermophilic insectivorous Cataglyphis ibericus.

Ancillary