Annual survival rate of tropical stingless bee colonies (Meliponini): variation among habitats at the landscape scale in the Brazilian Atlantic Forest
Keywords:resilience, mass-effect, reproduction rate, generalist, Tetragonisca angustula.
Stingless social bees live in perennial colonies whose longevity is influenced by various ecological factors. This study analyzed the influence of habitat anthropization and native forest regeneration stage on the longevity of natural colonies at the landscape scale. Random sampling of 25x25m plots, totaling 30ha per habitat type, located and monitored 118 nests of 14 species in the forest and 105 nests of six species in the anthropic habitat. Significant differences in colony longevity were observed between young and long-lived forests and between long-lived forests and anthropized habitat. Shorter longevities have generally been associated with a set of smaller-bodied species residing in anthropized habitats. The greatest longevities were associated with the three abundant and exclusive forest species, and was similar in the two forest regeneration stages: Melipona scutellaris, Scaptotrigona xanthotricha and Scaptotrigona bipunctata had high annual survival rates ranging from 87% to 93%. Another abundant species in the landscape was Tetragonisca angustula, a small habitat-generalist with short longevity (63%) that varied among habitats. Euclidean distance analysis based on this generalist placed young forest closest to anthropic habitat, and grouped the replicates of long-lived forest. Considering spatial variation in the life history traits, we infer that, among prospective landscape habitats, the Atlantic Forest favors stingless bees with high colonial longevity. On the other hand, generalists, such as T. angustula, with shorter colonial longevity and high reproduction rates are being favored by the expansion of anthropized habitats in place of deforested areas.
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