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Local and regional drivers of ant communities in forest-grassland ecotones in South Brazil: A taxonomic and phylogenetic approach.

08:00 EDT 11th April 2019 | BioPortfolio

Summary of "Local and regional drivers of ant communities in forest-grassland ecotones in South Brazil: A taxonomic and phylogenetic approach."

Understanding biological community distribution patterns and their drivers across different scales is one of the major goals of community ecology in a rapidly changing world. Considering natural forest-grassland ecotones distributed over the south Brazilian region we investigated how ant communities are assembled locally, i.e. considering different habitats, and regionally, i.e. considering different physiographic regions. We used taxonomic and phylogenetic approaches to investigate diversity patterns and search for environmental/spatial drivers at each scale. We sampled ants using honey and tuna baits in forest and grassland habitats, in ecotones distributed at nine sites in Rio Grande do Sul state, Brazil. Overall, we found 85 ant species belonging to 23 genera and six subfamilies. At the local scale, we found forests and grasslands as equivalent in ant species and evolutionary history diversities, but considerably different in terms of species composition. In forests, the soil surface air temperature predicts foraging ant diversity. In grasslands, while the height of herbaceous vegetation reduces ant diversity, treelet density from forest expansion processes clearly increases it. At a regional scale, we did not find models that sufficiently explained ant taxonomic and phylogenetic diversity based on regional environmental variables. The variance in species composition, but not in evolutionary histories, across physiographic regions is driven by space and historical processes. Our findings unveil important aspects of ant community ecology in natural transition systems, indicating environmental filtering as an important process structuring the communities at the local scale, but mostly spatial processes acting at the regional scale.

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This article was published in the following journal.

Name: PloS one
ISSN: 1932-6203
Pages: e0215310

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