The Habitat Affects the Ecological Interactions between Azteca Forel (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) and Cecropia Loefl. (Urticaceae Juss.)

Marcos Augusto Ferraz Carneiro, André Luiz Gaglioti, Karine Santana Carvalho, Ivan Cardoso Nascimento, Juliana Zina


In order to understand the effects of human impacts on structure and functioning of tropical forests, we should consider studies on animal-plant interactions such as ant-plant mutualistic interactions.We investigated the mutualistic interactions between ants (Azteca genera) and Cecropia plants in habitats of secondary forest and pasture used as cattle fields. We tested for the following hyphothesis: (i) Cecropia from pasture are more susceptible to foliar herbivory than the Cecropia from the forest, and (ii) the defense promoted by ants of Azteca genus is less efficient in the pasture when compared to the forested areas. We selected four areas inserted in Atlantic rain forest domain surrounded by secondary forest and by cattle pastures. The herbivory was more intense in the pasture than in the secondary forest. The presence of Azteca species diminished foliar herbivory only in the forested areas, where we observed a significant increase in herbivory after the removal of A. alfari colony. We argue that the greater herbivory in pasture occurs probably due the lack of other plant resource, being Cecropia paschystachya Trécul and C. glaziovii Snethl., isolated in a “sea of grass” without connection with other tree vegetation, opposite scenario observed in forested habitats. The defense of Azteca only in the secondary forest, leading us to suppose that: 1) not even the  aggressive behavior is able to reduce the intense herbivory in the pasture; 2) the  behavioral pattern in forest is not the same in deforested environments and / or 3) mutualism may be undergoing changes due to abiotic effects on pasture.


mutualism, Atlantic forest, herbivory, habitat effect, conservation

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