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Abstract

The composition and structure of ant communities were used to assess the success of the preliminary restoration program at Ranger uranium mine in the seasonal tropics of northern Australia. Ants were surveyed at eight sites, including two relatively undisturbed control sits, within the Ranger lease. The revegetated sites represented a range of variables likely to influence restoration success: revegetation age (two, four, and eight years), proximity to undisturbed sites (which act as potential sources of recolonization), and burning treatment. Revegetation at most sites was dominated by fast-growing species of Acacia. There was a clear succession of ant species across revegetated sites. Initial colonization was by species of Iridomyrmex, but as plant cover and litter development increased these were replaced by broadly adapted, opportunist species, especially the introduced Paratrechina longicornis. Ant recolonization was very slow at isolated sites, with only 12 species present after eight years (the oldest site available). This compares with 21 species after only four years at a site located close to potential sources of recolonization. The ant community at this site, however, was very similar to that at another site located close to colonization sources, but eight years old. Ant succession therefore appeared to have stalled at this point, with species richness and composition bearing little resemblance to that at control sites. The heavy shade and litter produced by acacias were considered to be the major impediment to further change. Results from a site that had undergone a prescribed burn after two years, thereby breaking dominance by acacias and allowing for the establishment of a wide variety of plant taxa, suggest that such management practices may promote further colonization by ant species.