Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 983–997 | Cite as

The importance of remnants of natural vegetation for maintaining ant diversity in Brazilian agricultural landscapes

  • Renata Pacheco
  • Heraldo L. Vasconcelos
  • Sarah Groc
  • Gabriela P. Camacho
  • Tiago L. M. Frizzo
Original Paper


Brazil is one of the leading producers of soybeans and other annual crops, and in several regions landowners are required by law to maintain 20 % of their lands with natural vegetation (i.e. as “legal reserves”). However, there is a growing concern that some of these reserves will be subject to increased levels of disturbance or even be lost as a result of the ongoing legislation reforms. In this sense, studies that evaluate the conservation potential of retaining natural habitats within agricultural areas are of great importance. We assessed the efficiency with which remnants of natural vegetation conserve the native ant fauna in a context of intensive agriculture. We compared the structure of ground-dwelling ant assemblages between crop fields and reserves located in different farms. Ant species richness was much higher in the reserves than in the crops, and this pattern was consistent in spite of variations in the type of crop planted in each field, and in the size (39–149 ha) and vegetation (open or closed savanna) of the reserves. From 41.4 to 76.4 % of all species recorded within each farm were exclusively found in the reserves. Differences in species composition were strong not only because the reserves had much more species, but also because the species that were present in both habitats showed contrasting patterns of abundance in each habitat. Overall, our results highlight that even small remnants of natural vegetation can have a significant potential to maintain a higher diversity of ants within an agriculturally dominated landscape.


Agricultural intensification Biodiversity conservation Formicidae Mosaic of land use types Neotropical savannas 



We are grateful to Laura Silva, Alan Costa, Daniela Santos, Raphael Silva, Ricardo Campos, Cauê Lopes and Fabiane Mundim for field assistance, and to Ben Hoffmann and an anonymous reviewer for proofreading and commenting the previous versions of this manuscript. We also thank UFU for providing logistical support, the farm owners for granting access to collect on their lands, and J. Longino, F. Fernandéz, S. Powell, J. H. C. Delabie, G. Snelling and W. MacKay that kindly identified some of the ant species. Financial support was provided by the Brazilian Council of Research and Scientific Development (CNPq grants 472972/2008-1 and 143112/2008-2), FAP-DF (PRONEX/FAPDF/CNPQ-563/2009), and Capes (AUX PE-PNPD-2578/2011).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 4968 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Renata Pacheco
    • 1
  • Heraldo L. Vasconcelos
    • 1
  • Sarah Groc
    • 1
  • Gabriela P. Camacho
    • 2
  • Tiago L. M. Frizzo
    • 1
  1. 1.Instituto de BiologiaUniversidade Federal de UberlândiaUberlândiaBrazil
  2. 2.Programa de Pós-graduação em Entomologia, Departamento de EntomologiaUniversidade Federal de ViçosaViçosaBrazil

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