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How does small-scale fragmentation affect litter-dwelling ants? The role of isolation

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Abstract

Remnant isolation following fragmentation is considered to be one of the main drivers of ecological decline in modified landscapes. Thereby, connecting remnants using ecological corridors has been increasingly suggested as being important for conservation. Our objectives were to test isolation effects on extinction, colonization and turnover rates of a litter-dwelling ant assemblage, and to evaluate effectiveness of ecological corridors to mitigate habitat fragmentation consequences. We used a mesocosm manipulative design, with three different isolation treatments: far, near and near connected by a corridor, sampled fortnightly for 60 days. Fragmentation caused an ongoing decrease in ant species richness, probably due to a negative balance between extinction and colonization. Extinction was steady with time, while colonization decreased over the same period. This outcome highlights the key role that colonization plays in the persistence of populations of litter-dwelling ants. Turnover rates increased with time in the treatment with a corridor, but remained steady in the other treatments. We conclude that corridors are important for not only immigration to remnants, but also emigration, acting as a two way traffic route. Thus, it may be an important “leakage” point for threatened species, with implications for their conservation status.

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge the help from Vitor D. Fernandes and Raquel G. Loreto for fieldwork, and Rodrigo M. Feitosa and Vivian E. Sandoval for ant identification. Comments from Ben Hoffmann and three anonymous referees improved the manuscript. The authors were supported by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) and Coordenação de Aperfeiçoamento de Pessoal de Nível Superior (CAPES) grants. The study was supported by the Fundação de Amparo à Pesquisa do Estado de Minas Gerais (FAPEMIG).

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Correspondence to Lucas N. Paolucci.

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Paolucci, L.N., Solar, R.R.C., Sobrinho, T.G. et al. How does small-scale fragmentation affect litter-dwelling ants? The role of isolation. Biodivers Conserv 21, 3095–3105 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-012-0356-5

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