, Volume 16, Issue 5, pp 1459-1470
Date: 12 May 2006

Edge and shape effects on ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) species richness and composition in forest fragments

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Abstract

In this paper, we tested four hypotheses relative to edge and shape effects on ant communities: (i) forest edges have lower species richness than the remnant core; (ii) species richness increases with distance from the edge; (iii) irregularly shaped remnants have lower species richness than more regular remnants; (iv) there is a higher similarity of species composition between edge and core in irregular than in regular remnants. We sampled litter ant communities on the edge and core of ten remnants, in Viçosa, Minas Gerais, Brazil. Species richness was larger at the forest core than at the edges, although did not increase with distance from the edge. Species richness did not vary with shape complexity. The similarity of species composition between edge and core showed a decreasing trend with remnant area, and did not vary with shape complexity. The observed differences of species richness between forest core and edge may be due to higher harshness of edges, caused by environmental changes. The absence of relationship between species richness and distance from the edge might indicate the range of edge effects, which would be smaller than the smallest distance of core sampled. Therefore, edges would affect litter-dwelling ant species richness in a distance smaller than 50 m. The observation of species composition allowed us to notice an effect of fragmentation that would not be noticed if we were considering only species richness. Edge may serve as step to generalist species, which may use it to colonise forest remnants. Furthermore, small remnants are more colonisation-prone by such species, and have a more homogeneous species composition than large remnants.