Ant Community Evolution According to Aging in Brazilian Cocoa Tree Plantations
Keywords:Theobroma cacao, Ant, Diversity, Tree growth, Plantation development, Agroforestry
AbstractAgriculture is frequently held accountable for the depletion of biotic diversity, although a few agroforestry systems support the conservation of a number of organisms. Cocoa farming is noteworthy as an example of an agricultural activity that benefits or maintains species richness. However, the mechanism by which the biodiversity persists throughout the entire process of plant development remains obscure. In Southeastern Bahia, Brazil, cacao tree plantations support the conservation of a large amount of organisms native to the Atlantic Forest, between them the ants. This study aims at recording the relationship between cocoa tree development and ant community structure. The experiment was carried out in a series of six cocoa tree plantations aged one, three, four, eight, fifteen and 33 years, distributed across the experimental grounds of the Cocoa Research Center at Ilhéus. 1,500 ant samples were collected using the sampling techniques: hand collection, honey and sardine baits, entomological blanket and “pitfall”. Highest values for diversity and richness were reported in the 15-years-old cocoa plantation. No significant correlations between diversity, richness or plant age were reported. Considering the faunistic composition, a statistical similarity was observed between the plantations close in age to one another. Plant aging did not exert any influence on the diversity gradient and richness in the succession process of the ant community. In young plantations, there are low differences between the ants found on the ground and the ones found on the young cocoa trees. In older plantations, the ant community divides in two distinct assemblages on the ground and on the trees. The variations observed in the ant community along the plant development were likely caused by the structural organization of the dominant species mosaic.
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