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Exploring the role of transhumance drove roads on the conservation of ant diversity in Mediterranean agroecosystems

Abstract

Drove roads are a major feature of Mediterranean countries, where this livestock management system has been practiced for centuries. In Spain, many drove roads have become completely or partially abandoned by herders, and transformed for other land uses. Yet, some major drove roads continue to be used for the passage of livestock, and might exert important effects on the conservation of biodiversity and ecosystem functions, particularly in highly transformed agricultural landscapes. In this study, we compare ant taxonomic and functional diversity on a drove road that is still used by transhumant livestock (the Conquense Drove Road) versus an abandoned road (the Murciana Drove Road). Ant species richness per trap and ant richness per sample unit were significantly higher on the used drove road compared to the abandoned drove road. The used drove road also had a positive edge effect on ant species diversity in adjacent croplands (both herbaceous crops and vineyards). Ant functional diversity was also higher on the used drove road. These results draw attention to the role of drove roads as ecologically unique systems and reservoirs of biodiversity, particularly within intensive agricultural landscapes. These effects, however, are largely dependent on maintaining livestock use.

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Acknowledgments

Financial support was received from the Spanish Ministry of Environment and Rural and Marine Affairs (Project 079/RN08/02.1), and the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (Project CGL2011-30266). Special thanks to Xavier Espadaler for helping with taxonomic identification, Pedro Zorrilla-Miras and Ana P. García-Nieto for the map design, María Acín and César A. López for field assistance; and two anonymous reviewers for the comments on the previous version of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to José A. González.

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Hevia, V., Azcárate, F.M., Oteros-Rozas, E. et al. Exploring the role of transhumance drove roads on the conservation of ant diversity in Mediterranean agroecosystems. Biodivers Conserv 22, 2567–2581 (2013). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10531-013-0539-8

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Keywords

  • Ants
  • Biodiversity
  • Functional diversity
  • Transhumant pastoralism