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Habitat diversity enhances ant diversity in a naturally heterogeneous Brazilian landscape

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Abstract

Understanding the factors that drive species richness and composition at multiple scales is of crucial importance for conservation. Here we evaluated how habitat heterogeneity—at the local and landscape scales—affects the diversity of ants in the Brazilian Cerrado. The Cerrado is a biodiversity hotspot that is characterized as a mosaic of habitats, including savannas of variable structure (the dominant vegetation), grasslands, and forests. We sampled ground-dwelling ants in four habitats, representing a gradient of increasing tree cover and decreasing grass cover. Twelve sites, distributed along two degrees of latitude, were sampled. Our sampling revealed a highly diverse and patchily distributed fauna comprising 150 species (from 44 genera), of which nearly 40% were found in only one site. On average, we found fewer species in the least structurally complex habitat. However, there was relatively little variation in species density among the remaining habitats despite strong differences in vegetation structure among them. Ant species composition varied markedly among sites and such differences were related to variations in vegetation structure but not to inter-site distances (latitude). Similar results were obtained when overall ant species richness (γ diversity) was partitioned additively into three components: α1 (diversity within sampling sites), β1 (diversity among sites within the same habitat type), and β2 (diversity among sites from different habitats). The β2 component contributed much more to γ diversity than did the remaining diversity components, indicating that conservation of the Cerrado ant fauna depends on the maintenance of habitat diversity.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to Gabriela P. Camacho, Laura V. B. Silva, Fabiane Mundim, Cauê T. Lopes and Alan N. da Costa for assistance with the field and laboratory work. We also thank Dr. Thomas O. Crist and an anonymous reviewer for the very useful suggestions made on earlier versions of the manuscript, and Adriano Melo for his help with the R software. Logistical support was provided by the Universidade Federal de Uberlândia (UFU), Faber-Castell S.A. and Parque Estadual da Serra de Caldas Novas (PESCAN). Financial support was provided by grants from the Brazilian Council of Research and Scientific Development (CNPq grants 472972/2008-1 and 143112/2008-2), and FAP-DF (Projeto PRONEX 2009/00087-3).

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Correspondence to Renata Pacheco.

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Pacheco, R., Vasconcelos, H.L. Habitat diversity enhances ant diversity in a naturally heterogeneous Brazilian landscape. Biodivers Conserv 21, 797–809 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-011-0221-y

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