Changes in Epigaeic Ant Assemblage Structure in the Amazon during Successional Processes after Bauxite Mining

Geraldo Wilson Fernandes, Tate C. Lana, Carla R. Ribas, Jose Henrique Schoereder, Ricardo Solar, Johnatan D. Majer, Eduardo G. Cordeiro, Jacques Hubert C. Delabie, Evaldo Ferreira Vilela


Environmental impact studies often involve monitoring and using bioindicators to evaluate the restoration stage of impacted areas. We aimed to assess ant assemblages’ response to the ecological succession of previously disturbed areas in the Brazilian Amazon. We sampled epigeic ant assemblages in five bauxite mining areas, representing different restoration stages, and compared them with two pristine areas. We also compared trends in species richness at the same mine site investigated 14 years earlier. Ten pitfall traps and four Winkler samples of litter were taken along a 100-m transect in each area. We expected that ant species richness would increase with the amelioration in habitat condition (i.e., environmental surrogates of ecological succession, including litter depth, soil penetrability, the circumference of trees, the distance of trees to adjacent trees, and percentage of ground cover). We also compared the efficacy of both sampling methods. Due to more significant sampling effort, pitfall traps captured more ant species than Winkler sacks. However, Winkler samples’ addition allowed the collection of more cryptic species than by pitfall traps alone. We sampled a total of 129 ant species, with increases in ant species richness in more mature rehabilitation. Nevertheless, similarity analysis indicated a significant difference between ant assemblages of rehabilitated areas and pristine ones. Assemblages differed mainly by the presence of specialist and rare species, found only in pristine plots. Rehabilitated areas exhibited a significant increase in tree circumference as they reached more ecologically advanced stages, which contributed to increasing ant species richness. These trends and comparison with the earlier study indicate that although there are favorable increases in ant species richness, in terms of species composition, rehabilitated areas were far from achieving an ant assemblage composition or environmental status that closely resembles pristine areas.


Amazonian ants; Trombetas; biomonitoring; biodiversity; ecological indicators; land rehabilitation

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