Review of Ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) as bioindicators in the Brazilian Savanna

Mariáh Tibcherani, Vivian Ayumi Fujizawa Nacagava, Rodrigo Aranda, Ramon Luciano Mello


The Brazilian Savanna is threatened mainly by the expansion of agriculture and livestock. Regarding environmental problems, habitat loss in the biome and the need to verify studies on ants as bioindicators, the goal of this paper was to carry out a bibliographic review of the literature about ants as bioindicators in this biome from the last 30 years. We searched papers about ants as bioindicators in the Brazilian Savanna from the last 30 years, refining the search between the years 1986 to 2016 and we analyzed 16 papers about ants as bioindicators. Monitoring studies focusing on ants as bioindicators in the Brazilian Savanna started in 1992 and increased since 2002. The results obtained in the studies presented changes in the species richness and composition in relation to potential bioindication. In general, 167 species are defined as bioindicators of the Brazilian Savanna and are related to specific habitats. We verified that most studies were done Minas Gerais state. We noted that the absence of rigorous analysis damaged the results of the studies, as well as the knowledge of ant fauna biology for correct attribution of indication characteristics of preserved or degraded areas.


Bioindication; Brazilian Savanna; Degradation; Formicidae; Hotspot; Preservation

Full Text:



Allaby, M. (1992). The Concise Oxford dictionary of Zoology. Oxford University Press, Oxford, p. 442.

Alonso, L.E. (2000). Ants as indicators of diversity. In: Agosti, D., Majer, J. D., Alonso, L. E. & Schultz, T. R. (Ed). Ants – standard methods for measuring and monitoring biodiversity. Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 80-88.

Andersen, A.N. (1997). Using Ants as bioindicators: Multiscale Issues in Ant Community Ecology. Conservation Ecology, 1: 1-12.

Balmford, A., Bennun, L., Brink, B.T., Cooper, D., Côté, I.M., Crane, P. Dobson, A. Dudleu, N., Dutton, I., Green, R.E., Gregory, R.D., Harrison, J., Kennedy, E.T., Kremen, C., Leader-Williams, N., Lovejoy, T.E., Mace, G., May, R.,Mayauz, P., Morling, P., Phillips, J., Redford, K., Ricketts, T.H., Rodríguez, J.P., Sanjayan, M., Schei, P.J., Jaarsveld, A.S. and Walther, A. (2005). The convention on biological diversity’s 2010 target. Science, 307(5707), 212–213. doi: 10.1126/science.1106281

Bascompte, J. and Sole, R. (1996). Habitat fragmentation and extinction thresholds in spatially explicit models. Journal Animal Ecology, 65: 465-473. doi: 10.2307/5781

Beiroz, W., Audino, L.D., Queiroz, A.C.M., Rabello, A.M., Boratto, I.A., Silva, Z. and Ribas, C.R. (2014). Structure and composition of edaphic arthropod community and its use as bioindicators of environmental disturbance. Applied Ecology Environmental Research. 12: 481-491.

Brandão, C.R.F., Silva, R.R. and Feitosa, R.M. (2011). Brazilian Savanna ground-dwelling ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) as indicators of edge effects. Zoologia, 28: 379-387. doi: 10.1590/S1984-46702011000300012

Canedo-Júnior, E., Cuissi, R.G., Curi, N.A., Demetrio, G.R., Lasmar, C., Malves, K. and Ribas, C.R. (2016). Can anthropic fires affect epigaeic and hypogaeic Brazilian Savanna ant (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) communities in the same way?. Revista de Biología Tropical/International Journal of Tropical Biology and Conservation, 64: 95-104. doi: 10.15517/rbt.v64i1.18239

Carranza, T., Manica, A., Kapos, V., and Balmford, A. (2014). Mismatches between conservation outcomes and management evaluation in protected areas: a case study in the Brazilian Brazilian Savanna. Biological Conservation, 173: 10-16. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2014.03.004

Carvalho, F.M.V, Júnior, P.D.M. and Ferreira. L.G. (2009). The Cerrado into-pieces: Habitat fragmentation as a function of landscape use in the savannas of central Brazil. Biological Conservation, 142: 1392-1403. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon. 2009.01.031

Corassa, J.D.N., Faixo, J.G., Andrade Neto, V.R. and Santos, I.B. (2015). Biodiversidade da mirmecofauna em diferentes usos do solo no Norte Mato-Grossense. Comunicata Scientiae, 6: 154-163.

Costa, C.B., Ribeiro, S.P. and Castro, P.T.A. (2010). Ants as bioindicators of natural succession in savanna and riparian vegetation impacted by dredging in the Jequitinhonha River Basin, Brazil. Restoration Ecology, 18: 148-157. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-100X.2009.00643.x

Costa-Milanez, C.B., Lourenço-Silva, G., Castro, P.T.A., Majer, J.D. and Ribeiro, S.P. (2014). Are ant assemblages of Brazilian veredas characterised by location or habitat type?. Brazilian Journal of Biology, 74: 89-99. doi: 10.11 11/j.1526-100X.2009.00643.x

Costa-Milanez C.B., Ribeiro F.F., Castro P.T.A., Majer J.D. and Ribeiro S.P. (2015). Effect of fire on ant assemblages in brazilian Brazilian Savanna in areas containing vereda wetlands. Sociobiology, 62: 494-505. doi: 10.13102/sociobiology.v62i4.770

Crepaldi, R.A., Portilho, I.I.R., Silvestre, R. and Mercante, F.M. (2014). Formigas como bioindicadores da qualidade do solo em sistema integrado lavoura-pecuária. Ciência Rural, 44: 781-787. doi: 10.1590/S0103-84782014000500004

Cunha, N.R.S., Lima, J.E., Gomes, M.F.M. and Braga, M.J. (2008). A intensidade da exploração agropecuária como indicador da degradação ambiental na região dos Brazilian Savannas, Brasil. Revista de Economia e Sociologia Rural, 46: 291-323. doi: 10.1590/S0103-20032008000200002

Dirzo, R and Raven, P. H. (2003). Global State of Biodiversity and Loss. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 28: 137-167. doi: 10.1146/

Fahrig, L. (2003). Effects of habitat fragmentation on biodiversity. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution and Systematics, 34: 487-515. doi: 10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.34. 011802.132419

Ferreira, M.E., Ferreira Jr, L.G., Miziara, F., and Soares-Filho, B.S. (2013). Modeling landscape dynamics in the central Brazilian savanna biome: future scenarios and perspectives for conservation. Journal of Land Use Science, 8: 403-421. doi: 10.1080/1747423X.2012.675363

Gerlach, J., Samways, M. and Pryke, J. (2013). Terrestrial invertebrates as bioindicators: An overview of available taxonomic groups. Journal of Insect Conservation, 17: 831-850.

Golden, D.M. and Crist, T. O. (1999). Experimental effects of habitat fragmentation on old-field canopy insects: Community, guild and species responses. Oecologia, 118: 371-380. doi: 10.1007/s004420050738

Greenslade, P.M.J. and Greenslade, P. (1984). Invertebrates and environmental assessment. Environment and Planning, 3: 13-15.

Henry, M., Cosson, J.F and Pons, J.M. (2007). Abundance may be a misleading indicator of fragmentation-sensitivity: The case of fig-eating bats. Biological Conservation, 139: 462-467. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2007.06.024

Hughes, S.J., Santos, J., Ferreira, T. and Mendes, A. (2010). Evaluating the response of biological assemblages as potential indicators for restoration measures in an intermittent Mediterranean river. Environmental Management, 46; 285-301.

Hunter, M. D. (2002). Landscape structure, habitat fragmentation, and the ecology of insects. Agricultural and Forest Entomology, 4: 159-166. doi: 10.1046/j.1461-9563. 2002.00152.x

Kageyama, P.K. and Gandara, F.B. (1998). Indicadores de sustentabilidade de florestas naturais. Série técnica do IPEV, 12: 79-83.

Kattan, G.H. and Alvarez-López, H. (1996). Preservation and management of biodiversity in fragmented landscape in the Colombian Andes. In: Schelhas, J & Greenberg, R. (eds) Forest patches in tropical landscapes. Island Press, Washington, DC, 3–18.

Kellman, M., Tackaberry, R. and Meave, J. (1996). The consequences of prolonged fragmentation: lessons from tropical gallery forests. In: Schellas, J. & Greenberg, R. (Ed.).1996. Forest patches in tropical landscapes. Washington: University Island Press, 37-58.

Klink, C.A. and Machado, R.B. (2005). Conservation of the Brazilian Brazilian Savanna. Conservation Biology. 19: 707-713.

Lovejoy, T.E., Bierregard Jr., R.O., Rylands, A.B., Malcolm J.R., Quintela, C.E., Harper, L.H.; Brown Jr., K.S., Powell, A.H., Powell G.V.N., Schubart, H.O.R. and Hays, M.B. (1986). Edge and Other Effects of Isolation on Amazon Forest Fragments. In: Soulé M. (ed.). Conservation Biology: The science of scarity and diversity. Sinauer Associates Inc., Sunderland, Massachussets. 257-258.

Machado, R.B., Ramos Neto, M.B, Pereira, P., Caldas, E., Gonçalves, D., Santos, N., Tabor, K. and Steininger, M. (2004). Estimativas de perda da área do Brazilian Savanna brasileiro. Conservation International do Brasil, Brasília.

Majer, J.D. (1983a). Ants: bio-indicators of minesite reha-bilitation, land-use, and land conservation. Environmental Management 7: 375-386.

Majer, J.D. (1983b). Ant manipulation in agro-and forest-ecosystems. In: Congress of the International Union for the study of social insects. 9; Boulder. They bilogy of social insects: proceeding Boulder: Westview Press, 91–97.

Majer, J.D. (1992). Ant recolonisation of rehabilitated bauxitemines of Poços de Caldas, Brazil. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 8: 97-108.

Marinho, C.G.S., Zanetti, R., Delabie, J.H.C., Schlindwein, M.N. and Ramos, L.D.S. (2002). Ant (hymenoptera: formicidae) diversity in eucalyptus (myrtaceae) plantations and Brazilian Savanna litter in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Neotropical Entomology, 31: 187-195. doi: 10.1590/S1519-566X2002000200004

Mazzoni-Viveiros, S. C., & Trufem, S. F. B. (2004). Efeitos da poluição aérea e edáfica no sistema radicular de Tibouchina pulchra Cogn. (Melastomataceae) em área de mata Atlântica: associações micorrízicas e morfologia. Revista Brasileira de Botânica, 27: 337-348.

McGeoch, M.A. (1998). The selection, testing and application of terrestrial insects as bioindicators. Biological Reviews of the Cambridge Philosophical Society, 73: 181-201. doi: 10.1590/S0100-84042004000200013

Mortelliti, A., Amori, G., Capizzi, D., Cervone, C., Fagiani, S., Pollini, B. and Boitani, L. (2010). Independent effects of habitat loss, habitat fragmentation and structural connectivity on the distribution of two arboreal rodents. Journal of Applied Ecology, 48: 153-162. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2664. 2010.01918.x

Murphy, S. M., Battocletti, A.H., Tinghitella, R.M, Wimp, G.M. and Ries, L. (2016). Complex community and evolutionary responses to habitat fragmentation and habitat edges: what can we learn from insect science? Current Opinion in Insect Science, 14: 61-65. doi:10.1016/j.cois.2016.01.007

Myers, N., Mittermeier, R.A., Mittermeier, C.G., Fonseca, G.A.B. and Kent, J. (2000). Biodiversity hotspots for conservation priorities. Nature 403(333), 853-858. doi: 10.1038/35002501

Nordén, B. and Appelqvist, T. (2001). Conceptual problems of ecological continuity and its bioindicators. Biodiversity and conservation, 10: 779-791. doi: 10.1023/A:101667510

Oliver, T. H., Heard, M.S., Isaac, N.J.B, Roy, D.B., Procter, D., Eigenbrod, F., Freckleton, R., Hector, A., Orme, A.D.L., Petchey, O.L., Proença, V., Raffaelli, D., Suttle, K.B., Mace, G.M., Martín-lópez, B., Woodcock, B.A. and Bullock. J.M. (2015). Biodiversity and resilience of ecosystem functions. Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 30: 673-684. doi: 10. 1016/j.tree.2015.08.009

Ramos, L.S., Marinho, C.G.S., Zanetti, R. Delabie, J.H.C. and Schlindwein, M.N. (2003a). Impact of formicid granulated baits on non-target ants in eucalyptus plantations according to two forms of application. Neotropical Entomology, 32: 231-237. doi: 10.1590/S1519-566X2003000200007

Ramos, L.D., Filho, R.Z.B., Delabie, J.H.C., Lacau, S., Santos, M.F.S., Nascimento, I.C. and Marinho C.G.S. (2003b). Ant communities (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) of the leaf-litter in Brazilian Savanna “stricto sensu” areas in Minas Gerais, Brazil. Lundiana, 4: 95-102.

Ribas, C.R., Solar, R.R.C., Campos, R.B.F., Schmidt, F.A., Valentim, C.L. and Schoereder, J.H. (2012). Can ants be used as indicators of environmental impacts caused by arsenic?. Journal of Insect Conservation, 16: 413-421.

Ribas, C.R., Campos, R B.F., Schmidt, F.A. and Solar, R.R.C. (2012a). Ants as Indicators in Brazil: A Review with Suggestions to Improve the Use of Ants in Environmental Monitoring Programs. Psyche, Article ID 636749, doi: 10.1155/2012/636749. doi: 10.1155/2012/636749

Ribas, C.R., Schmidt, F.A., Solar, R.R.C., Campos, R.B.F., Valentim, C.L. and Schoereder, J.H. (2012b). Ants as Indicators of the Success of Rehabilitation Efforts in Deposits of Gold Mining Tailings. Restoration Ecology, 20: 712-720. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-100X.2011.00831.x

Rocha, W.O., Dorval, A., Peres Filho, O., Vaez, C.A. and Ribeiro, E.S. (2015). Formigas (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) Bioindicadoras de Degradação Ambiental em Poxoréu, Mato Grosso, Brasil. Floresta e Ambiente, 22: 88-98. doi: 10.1590/2179-8087.0049

Siddig, A. A., Ellison, A. M., Ochs, A., Villar-Leeman, C., & Lau, M. K. (2016). How do ecologists select and use indicator species to monitor ecological change? Insights from 14 years of publication in Ecological Indicators. Ecological Indicators, 60: 223-230.

Silva, J.M.C. and Bates, J. M. (2002). Biogeographic patterns and conservation in the South American Brazilian Savanna: A tropical savanna hotspot. BioScience, 52: 225-233. doi: 10.1641/0006-3568

Smith, A.C., Koper, N., Francis, C.M and Fahrig, L. (2009). Confronting collinearity: comparing methods for disentangling the effects of habitat loss and fragmentation. Landscape Ecology, 24: 1271. doi: 10.1007/s10980-009-9383-3.

Steffan-Dewenter, I. and Tscharntke, T. (1997). Bee diversity and seed set in fragmented habitats. Acta Horticulturae, 437: 231-234.

Strassburg, B.B., Brooks, T., Feltran-Barbieri, R., Iribarrem, A., Crouzeilles, R., Loyola, R., and Soares-Filho, B. (2017). Moment of truth for the Brazilian Savanna hotspot. Nature Ecology and Evolution, 1: 0099. doi: 10.1038/s41559-017-0099

Tavares, A.A., Bispo, P.C. and Zanzini, A.C. (2008). Effect of collect time on communities of epigaeic ants (Hymenoptera: Formicidae) in areas of Eucalyptus cloeziana and Brazilian Savanna. Neotropical Entomology, 37: 126-130. doi: 10. 1590/S1519-566X2008000200003

Tolmasquim, M.T. (2001). Estrutura conceitual para a elabo-ração de indicadores de sustentabilidade ambiental para o Brasil. In: Garay, I.E.G., Dias, Braulio F.S. Conservação da Biodiversidade em ecossistemas tropicais: avanços conceituais e revisão de novas metodologias de avaliação e monitoramento. Petrópolis: Editora Vozes, 68-75.

Turner, I.M. (1996). Species loss in fragments of tropical rain forest: a review of the evidence. Journal of Applied Ecology, 33: 200-209. doi: 10.2307/2404743

Vasconcelos, H.L., Vieira-Neto, E.H.M., Mundim, F.M. and Bruna, E.M. (2006). Roads alter the colonization dynamics of a keystone herbivore in neotropical savannas. Biotropica, 38: 661-665. doi: 10.1111/j.1744-7429.2006.00180.x

Wilson, J. (1994). The role of bioindicators in estuarine management. Estuaries and Coasts, 17: 94-101.

Winston, M.R. (1995). Co-occurrence of morphologically similar species of stream fishes. American Naturalist, 145: 527-545.



  • There are currently no refbacks.

JCR Impact Factor 2016: 0.699