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Ants as Bioindicators of Natural Succession in Savanna and Riparian Vegetation Impacted by Dredging in the Jequitinhonha River Basin, Brazil

Authors

  • Cinthia B. Costa,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Geology, Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, CEP: 35.400-000, Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brasil
      C. B. Costa, email cborgesdacosta@gmail.com
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  • Sérvio P. Ribeiro,

    1. Laboratory of Evolutionary Ecology of Canopy Insects and Natural Succession, Department of Biodiversity, Evolution and Environment, ICEB, Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, CEP: 35.400-000, Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brasil
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  • Paulo T. A. Castro

    1. Department of Geology, Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, CEP: 35.400-000, Ouro Preto, Minas Gerais, Brasil
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C. B. Costa, email cborgesdacosta@gmail.com

Abstract

We investigated the response of ant species to landscape and geomorphologic parameters of a long-term (7–11 years) restoration project in the Jequitinhonha River (Northern State of Minas Gerais, Brazil) margins, previously dredged by a diamond mining company. Geomorphological changes from the dredging were severe and the area is unlikely to be adequately restored, mainly due to the negative effects of flooding. Our hypothesis is that ant species assemblages bioindicate successional stages and soil characteristics. We studied the association of effects from the river's flooding zone, the native vegetation, and sedimentary grain size with that of ant species diversity, abundance, and composition. An ant sampling program was conducted in April 2005, using three methods: baits, pitfall traps, and direct collection. Grain size was measured by sieving. In total, 10,784 ants were sampled, belonging to 7 subfamilies, 24 genera and 45 morphospecies. Ant species richness was greater in the undisturbed savanna area than in the restored habitats, and equivalently greater in the ecotone and intermediate zone habitats than on the river bank, the poorest habitat. Atta sexdens rubropilosa indicated a condition related to small forest remnants having well-structured soil. On the other hand, ants with a body length of under 0.5 cm (Dorymyrmex pyramicus and Pheidole fallax) predominated in sandy areas, where the majority of the granules were the finest. The lack of organic matter and soil structure for constructing suitable nests may prevent large ants from colonizing such areas, and thus inhibit the advance of natural succession.

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