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Plant Ecology

, Volume 218, Issue 11–12, pp 1255–1268 | Cite as

Ant interactions with native and exotic seeds in the Patagonian steppe: Influence of seed traits, disturbance levels and ant assemblage

  • Gabriela Inés Pirk
  • Javier Lopez de Casenave
Article
  • 203 Downloads

Abstract

Invasive plants may establish strong interactions with species in their new range which could limit or enhance their establishment and spread. These interactions depend upon traits of the invader and the recipient community, and may alter interactions among native species. In the Patagonian steppe we studied interactions of native ant assemblages with seeds of native and exotic plants, and asked whether ant–seed interactions differ with seed types and disturbance levels and whether the amount and type of ant–seed interactions can be predicted if both ant and seed traits are known. To characterize and quantify ant–seed interactions, we offered baits with large seeds of Pappostipa speciosa (native) and medium-sized elaiosome-bearing seeds of Carduus thoermeri (exotic), near and far from a road (high vs. low disturbed areas), and compared ant abundance and composition between areas. Interaction frequency was the highest for C. thoermeri seeds far from the road. Composition of ants interacting with C. thoermeri in these areas differed from that near the road and from that interacting with native seeds. Ant composition and abundance were similar between areas, but some species interacted more with exotic seeds in low disturbed areas. Ant foraging type predicted ant–seed interactions since the abundance of seed harvesters was positively correlated to interactions with P. speciosa, and that of generalists and predators, with interactions with C. thoermeri. The high interaction of ants with exotic seeds in low invaded areas suggests that ant activity could influence plant invasion, either by predating or dispersing seeds of invasive plants.

Keywords

Plant invasion Formicidae Granivory Patagonia Road disturbance 

Notes

Acknowledgements

We thank L. Elizalde, J. Franzese, N. Lescano, M. Alma and A. Devegili for their critical reading of previous versions of this manuscript and the valuable comments of two anonymous reviewers which helped to improve it. L. Aput, M. Carruitero helped in the field and laboratory. P. Fergnani and V. Werenkraut helped with ant identification. A. Farji-Brener gave valuable help at several stages of this study. Financial support was supplied by Agencia Nacional de Promoción Científica y Tecnológica of Argentina (PICT 2008-0352 and PICT 2015-1304). This is contribution number 101 of the Desert Community Ecology Research Team (Ecodes) of IADIZA Institute (CONICET) and FCEN (Universidad de Buenos Aires).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 41 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gabriela Inés Pirk
    • 1
  • Javier Lopez de Casenave
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratorio EcotonoINIBIOMA, CONICET- Universidad Nacional del ComahueBarilocheArgentina
  2. 2.Grupo de Investigación en Ecología de Comunidades de Desierto, Departamento de Ecología, Genética y Evolución, Facultad de Ciencias Exactas y NaturalesUniversidad de Buenos Aires, and IEGEBA (UBA-CONICET), Argentina, Ciudad UniversitariaBuenos AiresArgentina

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